Instability

Dylan LargeMy foster father always had a stressed look about him, the look that told me he had to try hard to make ends meet. He gave me a lot of freedom while he was busy working as a lawyer and consultant. But even with that freedom, he’d ensure I’d make the right choices. If my grades slipped up, he’d scold me. If I had to do a science project, he’d put his busy schedule on hold just to help me, even if it meant staying up all night. He didn’t always have time for me, but when it was the right thing to do, he was there.

In October of 2007, after living in his home for nearly 5 months, he asked me if I wanted to go to Chicago. We had gone several times prior, because he had family there. The day before he invited me, I’d heard him on the phone, talking with someone who seemed important. I thought nothing of it, and said yes to the trip.

When we were there my foster dad took me to Six Flags, bought me some new clothes, and even took me out to a really expensive restaurant. While we were at dinner, the Chicago Bears football team walked in, and proceeded to sit down. It was amazing, and I was having the time of my life.

But at dinner I felt the rug pull out from underneath me when he told me he had accepted a job in Washington D.C. At first I was super excited. Then he said, “I have to move and thought bringing you to Chicago might soften the blow.” I couldn’t contain my sadness. I started crying. Although I never told him, I always hoped he’d be the one to adopt me. I thought he’d rescue me from an unhappy life I couldn’t control, one where I was bounced from home to home.

I was 14, and I was angry. I was mad because the person I thought would become my dad was choosing a job over me. He hurt me, and I hated him for the longest time after that. But he was being offered the job of a lifetime. Who wouldn’t take it? He had the opportunity to pay off his debt and make his life something wonderful. You couldn’t really blame a guy for trying to get ahead.

I felt endlessly conflicted. I experienced intense anger because even after I moved to a new home, he thought he could still have a say in my life. I started acting out, being rude, and disobeying orders. When he found out, he came to see me and told me to cut it out — that I could do things well, or not do them at all. He always had high expectations for me, and talked me down from my behavior, but that incident upset me even more. He left, yet continued to have a stake in my life. It wasn’t fair.

Being tossed around without anyone to hold onto was the foundation of my childhood. I bounced around between 23 different homes during my time in foster care. I was placed with a family at the age of 13. I lived with them for 9 months. We were even discussing the possibility of adoption. Then the family told me “Dylan, you weren’t the boy we wanted you to be.” Just like that, I was living somewhere new. Despite being rejected and repeatedly abandoned, I clung to hope that one day I’d be adopted. I viewed that as being loved. What child wouldn’t? But the person I had the highest hopes for let me down, like everyone else did.

Published on May 25, 2014 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign.

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