Jesse went into foster care with John and Gen when he was four and later moved into their permanent care. Now 19, he pays tribute to the enormous impact they have had on his life in this letter for Foster Care Week.
For me foster care always meant so much more than just having a roof over my head and food on my plate.
Foster care allowed me to be myself, to forget about my past and to achieve everything that I am capable of.
A week before my fourth birthday, my younger brother and I entered care with our foster family.
I was a fragile child who felt unsafe in the world, and I had witnessed more than I would ever have liked to.
I struggled to trust anybody to look after me and my brother, the world was a scary place, and I had never really felt welcome anywhere.
I don’t remember an awful lot about my life before care, but the things I do remember aren’t entirely pleasant.
But care allowed me to forget about my early life almost immediately.
Feeling part of a family
I started to feel loved and appreciated. I remember the day that I came to believe that my foster father would never hurt me.
I approached him one day, after years of being in his care, and timidly asked if he would let me call him Dad, of course, his answer was yes. That is probably the moment that marks the beginning of me feeling like I had a family.
The attitude of my foster parents throughout my care experience has been incredible.
They taught me to not hate my past, but rather to learn from the mistakes of others and to come to terms with what has happened, and that which cannot be changed.
They allowed me to decide what I wanted to believe, even if they saw things differently. Essentially, I was allowed to feel normal.
In charge of my destiny
Instead of having care be the defining factor of my life, I was given the freedom to choose what I wanted my life to be about.
I was taught that I was in charge, that I chose what happens and that my actions are my future.
A lack of confidence in myself lead to me being rather introverted for most of my life, speaking honestly, I mostly still am.
As a child I would sit down and colour in.
It was my favourite thing to do, and I loved blurring out the world and focusing only on my work.
As I grew up this transposed into study, and so most of my time was, and still is, spent with my head stuck in books about chemistry and biology and the human body.
I graduated from high school last year and am now undertaking a Bachelor of Biomedicine at the University of Melbourne, a course I have dreamt of studying since I was 15 years old.
My intentions are to complete a medical degree and spend the rest of my life learning, and helping people.
The power of care
I am often told that the success of my brother and I pays a very strong homage to the power of the foster care system, and whilst I do believe this I never feel like the title of ‘a success story’ fits my life.
Personally, I just feel like a normal kid, and that is only possible because of care. When I tell my story I feel emotionally detached from it, in that I don’t feel like I’m talking about myself.
Rather, I feel like telling people about my time in care is like me telling them the story of another. Usually, my story evokes more emotion and sadness in other people than it does in me, and I think this is part of the true beauty of foster care. Simply the fact that I get to be liberated from the seemingly inescapable emotional stresses of my early life.
More than a home
Whenever I am complimented on anything, my foster parents always joke that I got it from them, and while they are joking I personally believe that I did get everything from them.
They taught me how to treat other people properly, how to live my life with respect and love, and even if I had had a natural affinity for learning, I would never have accomplished anything without their endless support, and their understanding of who I am.
They gave me so much more than just a home.
Foster care gave me the ability to do anything I’ve ever wanted, it’s allowed me to live happily and forget about my past, it’s helped me to be the best person that I can be. Foster care is the reason I’m going to spend my life helping people.
Foster care is a part of me, but only in the best of ways.