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Discovering My Worth as a Former Foster Youth

Focus on the Family

Focus on the Family
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Dec 20, 2019
Reuben Watson was adopted from foster care in his youth. As a child, he faced physical abuse and neglect. Prior to adoption, he bounced around to 13 foster homes, three mental health hospitals, and some crisis units. Reuben now uses his story to connect with and support children and youth in foster care.

A Confusing Childhood​

Reuben’s biological mother placed him for adoption as an infant. Reuben refers to the first family he lived with his God-family. In the beginning, they were everything to him. But after a while, Reuben unexpectedly returned to live with his biological mother for portions of the week.

Reuben was young, but he remembers the confusion he felt. Suddenly, the structure and family he had come to expect changed. He would spend three to four days a week with his biological mother and the remaining days with his God-family.

“Growing up, for me, it was night and day, depending on what day of the week it was,” Reuben describes. At his God-parents’ home, Reuben could expect a meal, safety, and security. They took him to church on Sundays, and he could anticipate the Sunday evening meal: greens, chicken, and macaroni and cheese. But then there would be a shift.

His Biological Mother’s Challenges​

When Reuben would return to live with his biological mother, things were very different there. The situation was difficult. “There were moments in which there was food present, and then there were moments in which food would be hidden. And I’d have to break into my biological mother’s room with a butter knife to try to get food,” Reuben recalls. “I felt like I wasn’t safe. I felt like I wasn’t loved.”

As Reuben grew older, he began to recognize the mental health challenges that his biological mother faced: bipolar disease and paranoid schizophrenia. “As a result of that,” Reuben explains, “I’ve come to understand that she has loved me in the best way that she could. Grace is sufficient for her, as well.”

Due to his biological mother’s challenges with mental health, Reuben began to face physical abuse and neglect. He questioned whether he could be loved at all since he felt no love from his mother. And he wondered whether he had any worth. At the age of eight, Reuben attempted suicide.

“For me, that was the only answer,” he describes. “Because if I couldn’t be loved by my mother—who was supposed to love me—who could?” At this time, Reuben had not yet encountered the Lord.

Entering Foster Care as a Child​

Reuben eventually shared with the principal at his school that he was experiencing abuse at home. He then entered the foster care system.

“This theme of value, worth, whether or not I could be loved was continuous,” Reuben reiterates. “I bounced around 13 different foster homes, bounced around to three different mental hospitals, a few different crisis units all across the state. I ended up with an organization called Sunrise Children’s Services.”

Throughout his many moves as a youth in foster care, Reuben continually struggled to see his value and worth. He faced abuse even in foster homes. At times he was so heavily medicated that he was in a zombie-like state. “I thought that it was impossible for someone to love me through my mess,” he states.

A Safe Place for a Youth in Foster Care​

At Sunrise Children’s Services, Reuben began to regain structure. “It was the first time in a long time that I had my own bed, my own space,” he recalls.

Reuben no longer worried about whether he would receive a meal. He was able to eat more than crackers and ramen noodles, which had been the reality of a past foster home. His lodging was infestation-free. There were no cockroaches, which was something he had also endured.

And most importantly, he was safe. Reuben was not getting into fistfights with other children. And he was no longer experiencing physical abuse from the adults who were supposed to protect him.

Adopted from Foster Care​

Sunrise Children’s Services became Reuben’s safe haven. “What was shared with me at Sunrise Children’s Services was that I could be fully known and fully loved. And there was something that was so beautiful about that,” Reuben says with a smile. “That was the beginning of the story of redemption for me.”

From there, Reuben met his forever family, the Watsons. They adopted Reuben was he was a young teen.

Ongoing Struggles as a Former Foster Youth​

After his adoption, Reuben continued to wrestle with questions of his value and worth. This struggle continued through high school and into college. Reuben also faced racism and culture shock.

During his first semester of college, one of Reuben’s best friends committed suicide. “At that moment, all the lies that had been running through my mind as a kid all came back up with a vengeance,” Reuben states. The situation felt like a reminder to Reuben that he was unlovable and unworthy. At the end of that first semester, Reuben attempted suicide another time.

“There was a rock bottom,” Reuben identifies. “There was a place of hopelessness and despair that I hadn’t felt in a very long time. And it didn’t seem like there was anyone there that could help me. But God stepped in.”

Fully Known and Fully Loved in Christ​

Reuben began to realize where his value and worth came from. “It wasn’t based on worldly value or my past. It wasn’t based on how I viewed myself or based on the foster families that I had interacted with.” Reuben knew that, in Christ, he was fully known and fully loved.

Reuben Watson Former Foster Youth

“I also learned that I was never alone in the moments in which I felt like I was hopeless. He was carrying me the whole time,” Reuben declares.

Today, Reuben is married and has a two-year-old daughter. He is constantly reminded of God’s grace and presence. While Satan comes to destroy, Reuben has witnesses how the Lord comes to restore.

An Advocate for Children and Youth in Foster Care​

Now, Reuben uses his voice as a former foster youth to encourage other children who walk a similar path. He works for Sunrise Children’s Services, the same organization that cared for him prior to his adoption. Each day, he has the opportunity to minister to children who feel alone, unlovable, and unworthy—like he once did.

Some children will say to Reuben, “You don’t get it. You don’t understand.” But Reuben shares the truth with them. He believes, “It is truly by the grace of God that I can sit before them and say, ‘I do understand, and you’re not alone.'”

“I believe that my story was one that was given to me as a gift,” Reuben professes. “There is trauma, and there is pain. But one of the things that I have learned and am continuously learning is that my story is not my own. It’s one to bring Him glory.”

A Message to Prospective Foster or Adoptive Parents​

Reuben does not shy away from the challenges of fostering or adopting. But he also knows how rewarding it can be. He watched as his (adoptive) parents bridged the gap for him. They loved and cared for him through the chaos of his life.

Foster and adoptive parents play an important role. “You have the opportunity to not be someone’s salvation but to help point them to their true Savior,” Reuben emphasizes. “You get to be an example of love and compassion.”

Reuben encourages anyone considering foster care or adoption to prayerfully consider the ways to serve vulnerable children, whether as a foster/adoptive parent or through some other form of ministry.

The post Discovering My Worth as a Former Foster Youth appeared first on Focus on the Family.

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