EDITOR’S NOTE: There are over 58,000 children and teens in California’s foster care system. These young people are removed from their families, and cared for by the state, because of abuse and neglect at home.
Julia Gayfield, 21, is a multi-racial, former foster youth, living in Richmond. She was removed from her parents and placed into the foster care system twice, once as a baby placed with a family and once again as a teenager placed in a group home.
Gayfield currently resides in transitional housing with other foster youth, and enjoys poetry, rap, and art as well as basketball, football, and soccer. She says walking along the marina helps her stay calm, and she describes herself as a woman that, “just wants it to be peaceful.”
Richmond Pulse: Why did you enter foster care?
Julia Gayfield: I entered the foster care system when I was a baby because my mom and dad were on drugs. I went back with my father from ages 3 to 17, and then I went back into the system. My sister called CPS [Child Protective Services] and all three of us were placed in foster care.
RP: What do you think people should know about foster care that they probably don’t?
JG: Being in foster care can be stressful and lonely because you cannot be with your family that much. But, even in a foster care you can get help. They have events to interact with other [foster care] teens. That’s how I met my girlfriend when we were 17-years-old. They got this program called ILSP, that stands for Independent Living Skills Programs, all around the state that can help with jobs, schooling placement and so much more. I am thankful for them. They took me places and paid me for doing my chores and getting good grades.
RP: What most surprised you about your experience in the foster care system?
JG: It was better than being with my parents. In the foster care system I got help with a lot of stuff like school and housing placement. I have learning disabilities, but I was still able to graduate from high school.
RP: If you could change something about your foster care experience what would it be?
JG: I got placed into foster care too late. I could have been in a better place.
RP: What did you appreciate about foster care?
JG: Everything, to be honest. I’m just happy they still help me today with school, and finding jobs and a better place to live.
RP: Do you think you are better off now having gone through foster care than you were when you were with your biological family?
JG: Yes, because I might not have survived to today. My mother passed away, and my father and I don’t talk. But, I want to see my father again and tell him that I am doing better. I’m not on the streets and I am working. That I am a growing up to be a good, responsible woman and that I miss and love him and he is a good father.