Entering Foster Care at 15

foster care
Written by Brandon Rutledge

My name is Brandon, I live in Tennessee, and I entered the Foster Care system at the age of 15.

There were many reasons for why I entered into the foster system but the primary reason was neglect. I willingly entered foster care… well, because I had nowhere else to go and a man that I had grown to trust thought it would be the best thing for me. This man was and still is (to my knowledge) a high-ranking firefighter in the Memphis fire department. One day in May 2008 I was eating dinner in his home when two police officers arrived. My initial reaction was to run, however, something in me told me to stay. After talking to my friend, the police officers and I sat down to discuss my options. I decided to listen to them and trust that entering foster care was the best option for me. And now, looking back, I would like to affirm that it definitely was the right decision.

Upon entering the system at age 15 I didn’t have any fears (I honestly thought I was going to live with rich, white people, but boy was I wrong!). After about 6 months of being in the system, fears began to arise. I remember beginning to feel like I was on my own in the world and that pressured me to think about my future; what would happen after turning 18, would I be homeless, what was I going to do with my life? All I knew was I didn’t want to be a failure and I wanted my life to have meaning.

With all the pressure about my future looming, in a small act of faith, I turned to God and I asked Him for 1 of 2 things: either a family of my own one day (a wife and kids) or a family right now (a mom and dad). I asked God to give me either one.

Sure enough, 12 foster homes and 3 years later, He did.

When people ask me about my experience in foster care or what the system taught me about humanity, I try not to sound harsh. In reality, I have witnessed how selfish and self-centered people can be. So I will say this: what taught me about life and humanity is not foster care but rather my faith.

Children need committed parents. People don’t just give their biological kids away when things get rough – foster kids or any parentless kid should not be treated differently.

I believe that all humans have been made in the image of God, with inherent worth and dignity endowed with gifts and abilities. And I also believe that how we see others directly impacts how we interact with and treat vulnerable people.

I wish to encourage, especially the people of God, to trust the Lord and to step out of their comfort zones. Because, although services, volunteering, and donations are great… at the end of the day, people need other people in their lives.

My story began because people (my family) said yes to the Lord, and brought me into their family and graced me with unconditional love. And I truly think the most valuable thing that someone can offer is to be involved in a child’s life, meeting them where they are in life and developing meaningful, lasting, committed relationships.

To read the blog from Brandon’s (now) sister, Ashley, click here

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