May 18 2017
By Jeffier Dawson
Jeffier (Je-fear) Dawson entered foster care at age five along with her two older sisters and one older brother. She stayed in the system until she aged out at 18. Today, as part of National Foster Care Month, Jeffier shares some of her experiences around the complicated issue of adoption, and discusses her own personal determination to succeed after aging out.
I had been told a lot that once you reach your teen years it’s harder to be adopted. I had always wanted to be adopted with my older sisters. When I was 14, my oldest sister graduated and transitioned out of foster care, and I was able to see that I was also going to transition out. I really understood that for myself I needed to focus not so much on who my mom or parents were, but instead I needed to focus on school.
I didn’t want to give up hope, the hope of having a home, but I had a foster home and foster siblings. It was a feeling of not wanting to think about it, because it hurt too much to not have an adoptive family.
I wanted an adoptive family, a mom and dad to take care of me, to love on me. I remember when I was five, there was someone interested in adopting me. I didn’t understand much at that age but I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere without my sisters, I didn’t want to feel like I was leaving them too.
Later on we found out that a caseworker hadn’t updated our information on the adoption website. We were on there when I was five, but three years later we asked her about it. I remember her saying she would have to go through all these records and take pictures and that she didn’t have the time to update it. We were upset about this. This may have been why we never met with anyone else to adopt. I have random memories that come and go… this happened, so maybe that’s why this happened. They unfold sporadically.
I’ve had to go through a lot of therapy. I have to really talk through it to see what’s better now, where I’m at now. It still hurts. It’s still really saddening to see that little girl I grew up as, how she was really depressed. You have to get past it, but it still affected my work and my grades. I didn’t realize that until now, but I remember having to go to a different class to take a test, and I had to go to therapy in school.
It was hard to see myself as anything but a foster kid, it was like a label. I didn’t want to feel like that, like you’re a foster kid and this is your line and you can’t cross it, you can’t go above that line. It’s not true. You can achieve, you can keep going. You can do more than what’s expected of you though you may feel at the time that you’re dragged down by your emotions, because of the trauma you have.
I am now 29 years old and I am on my own and just barely learning about finances, paying bills and growing in my work ethic. I'm the only one of my four siblings to ever have received a degree from college, which took me ten years. I know I have this family but they’re everywhere. I don’t know where half of them are. I’m only in contact with one sister. We’re not stable yet, but hopefully someday we’ll both be there.
The challenge has been accepting help, but my foster mom Deborah Dalton taught me the quote, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s true. I have had many friends and church family help me out. I had friends who never gave up. I have many challenges still to come but I am growing in my confidence and determination. Little by little you use your hurt and your pain as your strength to keep going. You use your past as your determination. I’m determined to not look back and say poor me, but to go forward and say I can do this. I would encourage any youth in the stage of transitioning out of care to look deep and get determined. Even if you don’t feel you have it, somewhere in there is a small voice saying you can. Make challenges for yourself and see them through.
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