“The police showed up in the middle of the night and they removed us from the home…We had to basically collect whatever we could and put it in a trash bag in the course of 20-30 minutes.”


I grew up in a small town, on the south side of Detroit, called Royal Oak. When I was younger, I definitely knew that something was different about my family. Different in the sense that it wasn’t the typical, or ideal, family home life. I never saw my parents, they weren’t really happy in their marriage, so there were difficulties. My grandma had mostly taken me in at that point, I lived with her six out of seven days of the week. She took me to school, she was the one to go to parent teacher conferences, she really tried to shelter me from the realities of my home life.

After my parents’ divorce, and my grandmother passing away, I ended up living with my mom who is diagnosed with OCD and has hoarding tendencies. My mother had taken roughly 3600 square feet of belongings and stuffed all of it into a new 1200 square foot home. People quickly noticed the condition of our home, and the way we were living, which led to several reports to Child Protective Services. The police eventually showed up, in the middle of a night, and removed us from my mom’s house, and placed into the back of a police car, to wait for our social worker – that was the beginning of my foster care experience.

I was twelve when CPS became part of my life on a daily basis, although, they had always been involved in some capacity or another growing up. I was removed from my mom’s care and placed, briefly, with my dad, before being removed due to anger management issues. At this point both of my parents were stripped of their parental rights, and I was officially declared award of the court, and placed into the foster care system. After two weeks my mom was given the ability to have us, temporarily, stay in her home, even though her rights had not been restored. This reunification did not last long, and, for the rest of my childhood, I constantly bounced between schools and placements.

In time I became pretty cool with life as a whole: my foster care experience, school, my friends. I didn’t even mind the moving, as long as I got to see my family. However, that all shifted during a meeting, attempting reunification, in which my father stated that a stepbrother was “more of a son” to him than I was. I now understand that my dad said what he said out of frustration with the social workers being overly involved in our lives. I know that he didn’t mean it in the way that it came off to my younger self, but, without this knowledge at the time, that conversation became a pivotal moment for me. Hearing that from my dad really changed me as an individual and dictated the course of my life for the next five years or so. It was as if a light switch was turned off in that moment and I “killed” my family. I killed the possibility of any sort of relationship, or future, with them. That was when I started responding with, “No, I’m done with having these meetings. I’m not going to therapy. I’m not going to school.” There was definitely a radical shift in who I was as a person at this time. My perception became: it’s me against the world.


Once things started to stabilize in my final foster care placement, and I was no longer being moved around, I started to find the support that I needed. I definitely ended up confiding in other adults, including a lot of my teachers throughout high school, during this period. They became my “friends.” I feel like these adults went above and beyond their job descriptions to help me see the potential in myself that they saw. My social workers and guardians are still involved in my life to this day. Every time I go back home I always make it a point meet up with them. I always felt like they cared about me, even though we may not have always seen eye to eye on all of my decisions.

During my senior year of high school, after participating in a few acting competitions in Los Angeles, I decided I was going to move across the country. At first everyone tried to stop me. But, after many failed attempts, most people began to support my choice to leave and start over. During spring break I took a trip to LA, found my first apartment, paid the rent, and only went back to Michigan to finish school. Once I emancipated, and graduated high school, I officially moved to the city. Everything quickly began to just click: the people, the diversity, the environment, the culture, everything about it. I started to book many projects and establish myself as an actor/musician/artist in the entertainment industry. Even though it seemed like I was living the dream I started to become lonely, and isolated, until the instinct to find where I belonged kicked in.



I Googled organizations that were similar to those that I’d worked with while in care. I found California Youth Connection and began forming a community on the west coast. I became chapter chair of CYC LA, then Co-Chair of California, and now I am recently accepted to be on the nonprofit’s Board of Directors. All of this led me to find many other great organizations, and I began to build my network in my new home. Finding people that could relate to my experiences growing up gave me a purpose, and helped with what I was feeling. After meeting other fosters I started to struggle with identifying myself as a foster youth, seeing as I had mostly lived with my parents, and never had to deal with a lot of the things that I’ve heard so many others share. These doubts lead me to question my place in transforming the system, until I received a new perspective from a mentor, and that completely reformed how I looked at my role within the community.



What my mentor said has stayed with me, and I use it to re-center myself all the time. She said, “It’s your upbringing that makes you the perfect candidate to talk about foster care. Since your time in care wasn’t as traumatic, you have a unique perspective and ability to speak towards changing things for those who are going through things that may be more traumatizing than your experience. It’s because what you went through doesn’t get in the way (as much) of what you need to get across and, at the end of the day, it’s about being heard. That’s what brings awareness to an issue, not necessarily just your story.” In that moment I realized my life could impact people beyond my immediate knowledge of a situation. I wanted to be an example, and a source of support, for people, and suddenly I understood how I was meant to be speaking out about foster care. I truly feel as if I am “the perfect candidate” to be the voice for change.


Out of this newfound motivation, I formed my own non-profit called “The Foster Bunch,” which combines my experiences with foster care and entertainment. I really wanted to create a voice for the foster care community that transforms how people look at the upbringing of children who grow up without their parents in their lives. The idea is that other former fosters, including myself, who also happen to be entertainers, are coming together to change what “foster care” means. Our biggest goal is to rename “foster care” to “community care”, because the word ‘foster’ doesn’t have a positive connotation attached to it. It took realizing that “foster care” is, in essence, the lack of the nourishment a child receives when being raised in a community who doesn’t emphasize their responsibility in the upbringing of a child versus the love one would normally get growing up. The label “community care” should hopefully, ultimately, force people to rethink what foster care is, and to realize that it’s something that everyone has responsibility in. Ultimately, I want to be able to have a new generation not go through what I did. I want to make sure there is a support system in place to be able to transition these kids into adulthood, and adult responsibilities, a lot smoother than I did.


For the majority of last year, I experienced homelessness. I spent time living in my car, so I was never really on the street, but I also didn’t know how to create a stable living situation for myself. Eventually I lived with one of my best friends, who happens to also be a former foster youth. She understands what I’m going through, and has my back. I stayed on her floor, for a period of time, and I’m forever grateful to her. Being a product of the system, as it is currently, and growing up without a stationary parental figure, or role model, there are things you are not taught about life, since there is no one guiding you through challenges. I’ve had to learn these things, mostly on my own, although I’ve been lucky to have people that have supported me at times. My time with my friend gave me the space that I needed to look for housing. I’m currently living with the previously mentioned mentor. We have an agreement – in exchange for rent I provide professional child care, and family support, as a live in ‘manny’. They are a wonderful, and loving, family consisting of two loving moms, a set of twins, a toddler, and even grandma and grandpa, who live in the back house. Being here at this house, and in this environment, has been absolutely life changing – but it has also forced me to combat some real emotional highs and lows.

I’ve discovered parts of me, that I had pushed way back, coming to the surface. Recently I was sitting at the dinner table with everyone, just watching as one of the moms was having a tickle fight with the toddler, and it may sound silly, but out of the blue, a wave of sadness came over me. I had to really process those feelings, and acknowledge that I still had a lot of sadness inside me concerning never having that traditional “family unit” growing up. I didn’t even know that I hadn’t been provided a “normal” amount of love and support as a kid until way after the fact. I’ve found that it’s pretty typical for foster kids to have trouble understanding, or really accepting, that someone could be there for them and, sometimes, it’s even harder to be there for yourself. Over the last year I’ve made it a point to focus on self-love.


Something that reminds to be kind to myself, is a tattoo that I got last year on my ankle, in my handwriting, that says “meow.” Initially I just liked the idea because it’s something I say a lot. More important, however, is that I’ve grown over time to say “meow” to people instead of “I love you.” Not because it makes any sense, but just because it feels right, and, for me, it represents what I would like my love to be, and to remind myself to always love the only constant in my life, me. If someone is going through a situation similar to mine, I would tell them to use their hard times as a source of strength, and not a source of pain. It’s always a choice to acknowledge that what’s happened to you is, permanently, a part of who you are. You must acknowledge that it’s happened, but, even more powerful of choice is to not dwell on past negativity, and to make all of your experiences the driving factor to create a life that you truly love.