I Am the Woman I Am
Carlina Shotwell has done so much in her life despite the label of being a "former foster youth." Read her story below!
My name is Carlina Shotwell and I entered foster care on June 29th, 2001 at the age of nine years old.
Prior to being placed in foster care, my family and I were living in a homeless shelter because my mother could not provide stability and financial support for her five children.
As a child in the foster system, I was beyond scared and concerned for my other siblings. We went many years without seeing or speaking to each other but I knew this was no fault of our own – it was a choice each of our foster parents made. Throughout my time in foster care, I lived in a total of eight foster homes within North Carolina. Unfortunately, I did not have the greatest experiences in those homes. Many of my foster parents made it very clear I was only there for their personal benefits. I had one particular foster parent who stated I was her “car payment.”
As a child, these experiences hurt me to the core… but I am a stronger person now because of it.
My main thought when entering a new foster home was, “How long will this one last?” I always had thoughts in my head that the particular parent had two weeks to prove to me I was worth it. Unfortunately, a mixture of their lack of concern and my acting out always took a turn for the worst. As I grew up, the appearance of my family slowly diminished. My first foster parents were involved in family visits at the beginning, but after a while they stopped. The foster parents that followed never even mentioned an opportunity of family visits.
I was never adopted by any of my foster parents. In North Carolina we have something known as the CARS agreement. The CARS agreement is what you sign on your 18th birthday if you would like to stay in foster care. The agreement can be broken at any time from 18-21 years old. I decided to sign this agreement, because I was a senior in high school at the age of 18 years old and wanted to finish. I broke the agreement once I completed high school to move into my own apartment with the help of Pitt County Department of Social Services LINKS program.
I have endured many obstacles while in foster care, but I have always kept my hope of a loving and caring home. Currently, I am an adult and I have realized that many of my homes were better than others. I am forever grateful and thankful to each parent for offering me a chance of a loving and caring home. I am the woman I
am today because of each and every one of my foster parents and I am truly proud of my hard work and dedication. I have spent many years reaching out to foster youth and giving them the hope to continue on past foster care and reach for their dreams just as I did. I earned my Paralegal Technology degree from Pitt Community College in 2013 and my Criminal Justice Technology degree in 2015. My ultimate goal is Law School and I am almost there! I am currently in my senior year at North Carolina Central University where I am furthering my studies in Criminal Justice Juvenile Justice. Dreams really can become a reality!
I live to tell my story – to shed light on the system as well as how the system affected me and still affects me. Foster care was not created as a bad thing, and I understand that completely. Nevertheless, the system has a way of allowing a couple of bad seeds to slip through the cracks just to secure a home. Thankfully, I have the opportunity to work with a great organization SAYSO (Strong and Able Youth Speaking Out) that implements changes in the foster care system within North Carolina. I have also submitted my application to become a foster parent of my own and starting classes this September!
I would like people to understand that foster care was not created as a bad thing, but to provide what the biological parents lacked. It is an opportunity to help mold a child into a great human being and not a form of income.
I would strongly suggest to people who are considering becoming a foster family to always have patience with the foster child and show him/ her you care. That being said, being a foster parent is not for everyone, just like being a parent is not for everyone but there are plenty of other ways to get involved!
I am currently a published author, public speaker, and foster care advocate. I have written my first children book titled, “Journey: A tale of a foster youth’s journey home.” In this young male’s journey he is faced with obstacles that only a foster youth would fully understand. This tale applies true meaning to the longing for a loving and caring home. No one longs for this more than a foster youth and this I am sure of. My book is available on Amazon, Kindle, and my website www.carlinashotwell.com. I wrote this fictional tale to help current and future youth. My goal for my book is to bring a more positive light on foster care and establish the need of more caring and loving homes.
– Carlina, Former Foster Youth