As has been the prevalent trend in my blog writing experience, I thought that the blog that I am about to write would be completely different than what it actually became. I was planning to break your heart, to anger you, to move you to participate in being a part of changing the broken and horrific system that is foster care. I drafted version after version in my mind, carefully crafting an introductory paragraph so vivid, so raw, and so powerful that I would move you to tears. It would be centered around the interview that I was to have with a young woman, Brandi, who had aged out of the foster care system. Blogging about interviews is my favorite–it feels so incredible to make the words that I record come to life for a whole new audience, to change their perspective, to outrage them. And I was ready to make this blog outrage all of you, as Brandi’s story of hardship and pain unraveled before your eyes.
But there was just one problem. While Brandi’s story does contain hardship and pain, it is more than anything a story of joy, of optimism, of resilience, and ultimately of hope.
When I first met Brandi she looked just like any other University of Nevada student. In a navy Wolfpack sweatshirt with a Starbucks in hand, she easily made small talk as she told me that she is majoring in Biology and wants to pursue a career as a Forensic Scientist. To sum it up, Brandi is cool.
By looking at her, interacting with her, listening to her lilting laugh, you would never guess that Brandi spent the majority of her adolescence bouncing from home to home, living at Kids Kottage for months at a time, in search of a stable and loving family unit. She eventually found just this, but only after years of tough times and heartache. “Sometimes it kinda felt like jail you know,” she said, looking down as she finished off the last of her breakfast burrito. “It wasn’t all bad. It was like there was some good with the ugly. But the ugly…it was just so so ugly.”
And that was the only even somewhat negative statement that Brandi uttered throughout our thirty minute interview. As much as I dug for dirt and led her on with my questions in the hopes of exposing what I believed the foster care system to be, she maintained her posture of positivity. “But what about the crappy system as a whole? What would you want to do to make it better?” I ask, grasping at straws so I would not have to think of a different blog topic. She paused, “It’s not that the system is so bad, it’s that there is no communication. No one knows about all of the resources that exist.”
No one except her that is. Brandi, I come to find out, is somewhat of a poster child for the foster care system. She literally was a FosterClub All-Star last year, participating in a competitive internship where she spent her summer in Oregon mentoring and speaking to foster youth about what it takes to succeed and transition out of the system and into adulthood. She additionally participates in a college cohort which entails her meeting with a mentor once a week for an entire semester. Through the program, if she finishes the semester with all Cs or above, she is given $500. She also takes advantage of the Educational and Training Voucher through the Children’s Cabinet and the Assembly Bill 350 which provides her with a monthly stipend. She is doing well in her classes and plays in the Pride of the Sierra Marching Band. Did I mention how cool this girl is?
I ask Brandi if she would ever consider being a foster parent in the future. “Absolutely,” she says, nodding her head slowly. “I have spent my whole life taking care of others and loving on them…If I can keep doing that as a foster parent, why wouldn’t I?”
So while this blog is sort of about the foster care system, and a lot about Brandi, it really is about seeing things differently, and about being humbled by truth that you might not expect or even understand. I know the foster care system is far from perfect, but interviewing this remarkable young woman helped to remind me of the strength and the resilience that can endure even through the brokenness. It gave me hope. That despite the fractured systems, rampant injustice, and overall ugliness that exists in our world, there is beauty. That flowers come from dirt. That beautiful things can be made out of the dust.
So I encourage you, I challenge you, to find the good, the beautiful thing, the Brandi, and to let it, let her, let him, motivate you, let them change you. Because I can guarantee you that having your heart broken by beauty will move you and inspire you in a way that outrage and anger never could.