Michael Wynn: Growing up in foster care, you pretty much live in the notion that you can move at a moment's notice. You wake up not knowing where, at the end of the day, you're gonna lay your head. 

My name is Michael. I was in foster care 'til I was about eight years old. And then I was adopted for a short period of time, and then I went back into foster care around the age of 14 and then from there I did age out of the foster care system.

Christian Delacruz: My name is Christian Delacruz. I was shifted around from foster home to foster home, and eventually ended up in group care facilities around the age of 15.

Tanya Townsend: I'm Tanya Townsend. I was 10. I was in class. I was like in social studies or something and they called my name out to the office. They were like, “Oh can we have Tanya Townsend to the office.” And I went up there and I sat in a room and they came in they were like, "So, um, sorry but like you're not going home," basically. And they just separated me from my brother. And they just brought me to a car and brought me to a house and I had literally a trash bag with my stuff and I was like, "I need to call my dad. He doesn't know where I am." And they were like, "You can't call your dad." And I was like, "I need to let my gramps know where I am.” And they were like, “You can't. You can't call anyone right now."

I felt like I was kidnapped. Like someone just picked me up from school, and brought me to a random stranger's house and I had no idea what was going on.Michael: I had moved that morning, and I went to a new school that afternoon. Like, literally, I'd moved and gone my first day of school on the same day. And all my clothes were in a trash bag, and so they had a musty smell to them. And then kids I remember saying thinking I smelled funny. I was able to be identified right away as a foster kid by the way my clothes smelled.  

Tanya: My grandfather tried to stay in my life throughout wherever I was. So I moved a lot in foster care, like from house to house to house. I even moved out of state to Vermont at one point. But wherever I went, he would visit, or he would come and take me out to eat. He would advocate for me. So when at one foster home like the lady wouldn't come home, and I wasn't getting fed, and like she… There wasn't a phone in the house to call for help. And I had a, like, 9 month old baby at the time, and I was just left there. And I was only 15, and I'm like, “I don't know what to do.” And I remember him contacting DCYF and being like, "Listen, you need to do something about this. This is dangerous." 

I had gotten two jobs and I was actually buying everything for myself. I was buying us food, I was buying diapers. And DCYF came in and I was like talking about how I'm really trying hard to support my child and all this stuff. And I remember the DCYF worker looking at my then foster parent and being like, "Excuse me? This is your responsibility. Like, you're supposed to be buying these items. What? Like What? This isn’t okay." 

Christian: I was constantly coming up against individuals who were working for the group home who didn't really know where I came from. And so I would get the quiet treatment from staff. The, "You got me fired." I've been accused of that before. There was a time where you know, physical contact happened between me and a staff and my arm was fractured because of it, over something very, very minimal. And that went unnoticed. And on top of that I was gaining weight, and the nutrition was terrible, and I was becoming more and more depressed. More and more hopeless. There were times where I didn't want to live anymore. Even though I was surrounded by so many youth in the group home, I still felt alone.

Tanya: I was going full time at CCRI. I had got a job on campus to make it easier with the navigation, taking the bus and everything. I was doing really well. And I was just like, “Please let me stay. I'm not ready to be on my own.” And they were like, "Nope. Sorry. Sucks to suck." And so the day before my 18th birthday I was like on the floor of an apartment with no furniture, no nothing. It was just me and [my daughter] and I was like, “OK now what? I have no idea what to do.” 

Christian: I'm probably one of the few LGBT members in my community to be of faith. That got me through some of the most difficult times in my life. Just having this hope that it was always gonna get better, that God had a plan for you. So faith for me was a huge thing, partly because faith never let me down like people did. 

Tanya: I really just figured out how to be independent, you know. Like, figure out how to get my child to daycare by myself, how to get to work by myself. Taking the buses, and figuring out how I can do it all and still further my education. 

Michael: A lot of people view foster kids as lonely as not having anyone in their corner. And sometimes that can be true, but we tend to build our own families.  

Right now I'm working on getting my Master's in social work. I am hoping to focus on making things easier for people who are in my situation. I had been told over and over again by my support network, "Oh you should really consider being a social worker. You connect really well with kids. You have the experience. You know what it's like." And honestly I think it's just that I allowed myself to realize that I could do this and that I deserved this.  

Christian: I was always that kid in the group home that was the big loud mouth advocate, you know. And I think there were quite a few staff who just did not like me because I was always on top of them, you know, making sure the job was done right. So I think I've always been an advocate. But I don't think I really discovered the true advocate in myself until I aged out. When I left care, I finally had that chance to make my voice heard. 

Tanya: I think being left to the wolves and just kind of left on my own, I realized that I was in control of how my life was gonna be. Like, I was in control of how I was gonna feel, who I was gonna become, what was gonna become of me. So I kinda was like, okay I can sit in this room and do nothing, or I can do everything that I possibly can to somehow be successful and be able to provide more for my children than had been provided for me. 

Our series Living In Limbo will continue tomorrow, as we follow one 19-year-old in DCYF’s care preparing to leave her last foster home, and move into an apartment of her own.

And we want to hear from you. Did you grow up in state care? Are you a foster parent or birth parent who has experience with DCYF? Do you work in child welfare? Share your stories here: