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Youth Editorial

Keep Moving Forward

Michael Schwietert

Alone. Confused. Unorganized. These are words that describe my time in the foster care system. I was placed in foster care at the age of 3 and reunited with my mother at 5. During the time away from my mother, I was able to see things from a different point of view, from a really unstable point of view. I was able to see many different homes from many different standpoints, and it was then I realized that I was my own best friend. There were never adults to share much time with me. Other youth in each home looked at me differently, and many were thrown off by my skin color. I became self-reliant and trained myself to go through the motions, home after home.

After I was placed back with my mother, things were different—but they were also the same. The care needed for a young son to grow was not present, and, aside from some teachers, there were no other adults to see me for who I was. Most of the time, I felt like another mouth to feed. My wheels would keep turning in my expanding mind. I was always a very sleepy child. This was mostly due to my dreams. I often felt that my dreams would help me escape what was really happening around me. What was happening around me? Neglect.

I stayed with my mom for a year before her old habits returned. I began to see many new faces. Faces of people who would watch me for a short moment while my mother went out for the evening. I saw faces of people once and never again. My mother’s behavior continued and soon caught up with her. I was put back into the state’s custody and shuffled through more homes.

I had become used to being seen as just another mouth to feed, just another child in a home. So I went through my routine of entertaining myself and always thinking of what things would be like if my circumstances were different. I was always alone it seemed. I dreamed alone and woke up alone. I remember waking up my first night in one of my new homes. I wasn’t able to have a bed that evening, or any other evening, but I remember I fell asleep alone and I was awakened by wet dog kisses. I began to like dogs after that.

Other children in these homes never paid much attention to me because they were secure in their environment. They had grown up in their own families while I, on the other hand, was a mere passenger waiting for my next stop on a never-ending train. I was fine with this behavior. I was very attuned to my circumstances and figured these children might distract me anyway. I was always wondering where I would be next. Always wondering if I could go on adventures and see how the “lucky” kids lived. These chances never came, but their absence helped shape me into a very patient person.

I was later adopted into a terrific home. The family was great, and they even had dogs! The room for a young man to grow was present, but the push to flourish was not there. I soon realized I would have to shape myself and push myself to reach my fullest potential. My family could show me attention, but overall I knew self-reliance would get me the furthest.

I graduated on time because I realized that my education would take me places, to the places I had dreamed about. I am currently working a full-time construction job, going to school and helping at home with my brothers and sisters to support them in realizing their potential.

Even when all seemed lost and like no one would throw me a rope, I kept moving forward. I encourage you to push yourself to your dreams—or help the youth you work with to do so—with the hopes of one day being able to reach out and touch them.

Michael Schwietert, 20, is a member of Facing Foster Care in Alaska. He shared his experiences in foster care at National CASA’s 2010 conference in Atlanta. Schwietert is interested in acting and film-making and plans to pursue the two areas after receiving his associate’s degree in business marketing from his local community college in Fairbanks.

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Anonymous @ 7/26/2010 7:15:28 AM 
God gives us gifts in life and its what we do with those gifts is what can be so rewarding .......God Bless You......
Anonymous @ 7/23/2010 2:56:50 PM 
Yes, Hi! I was really impressed with your journalism as well. But most of all stories like yours is why I choose to be a volunteer. I have five children and no matter how well you take care of your children, it is all about paying special attention and allowing them to express themselves. If children have that, then that is what counts. I pray for you and your family, you all will always be in my heart, along with all those who experience neglect. Rosalind Lewis
Anonymous @ 7/23/2010 11:15:11 AM 
I had the opportunity to meet Michael at the National CASA conference. We shared a shuttle from the airport to the conference hotel. His story is amazing, but more amazing is what a personable, articulate young man he is with a great personality and an aura of positive energy surrounding him. I have often told my CASA kids not to let their negative past circumstances define them... What an example Michael is to so many children! I wish you a life full of special blessings Michael! ~ Amy Paiva, Texas
Anonymous @ 7/23/2010 10:47:54 AM 
I'm very sorry your experience in foster care was so difficult. I'm an adoptive mom of 5 and 1 bio and a former foster mom. I would hate to know any of my foster children felt so alone because we didn't provide them with the nurturing they needed. You obviously are a very strong young man and have the internal strength to do what it takes to survive. You are and will be an inspiration to many!!
Anonymous @ 7/23/2010 7:10:15 AM 
This touched my heart-this is why I decided to be a volunteer- you moved me to tears.
Anonymous @ 7/22/2010 8:11:35 AM 
Michael your awesome! I cannot wait to see you in a few weeks. Your pretty much the coolest person ever. Slade
Anonymous @ 7/21/2010 8:31:43 AM 
Michael, WOW...have you considered journalism in your future? Whatever you choose to do, you are going to succeed! Remember to keep Jesus top priority in all that you do! Love ya,
Anonymous @ 7/21/2010 8:09:39 AM 
Micheal, never stop reaching for the stars! What a great story, anything in life is possible!
Anonymous @ 7/21/2010 6:57:49 AM 
As usual you always say something that makes me think. I appreciate the way you are using your past to help others. You are an awesome young man that will go far.
Anonymous @ 7/21/2010 3:27:41 AM 
It sounds like you've taken many a wondrous stride since the days of FCS and before. Congratulations, dude.
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