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Older Foster Youth Profile

http://ozarkspub.vo.llnwd.net/o37/KSMU/audio/mp3/olderfoste_993.mp3

According to the Missouri Department of Social Services in March of this year there were 291 youth ages 13 and older in Foster Care in Greene County. KSMU continues its series on issues facing older foster youth. KSMU's Emily Nash talked with a woman who was in the foster care system for the majority of her later teenage years. She shares her experience as a foster youth.

Kendrick:"My name is Lacy Kendrick. I was in care for six years. I went in at age 15 and aged out when I was 21." (:06)

Kendrick has been out of care for two years and is a senior at Missouri State University.

She describes how she felt when she finally reported her unhealthy home life and went into foster care.

Kendrick:"Oh my God I was so scared. And my dad had told me before that if we went into care that we would be beaten and raped and separated and all this stuff. So I was scared to say anything for like three years, until so finally I just couldn't take the home life anymore."

Kendrick stayed in one foster home during her care, but says not all kids are that lucky.

Kendrick: "My sister second in line to me, stayed in fifteen different homes in three years."

She says foster kids who change homes a lot, like her younger sister, face a lot more issues growing up.

Kendrick: "Well there is no stability first of all, there is not backup support. Their education suffers a lot. Because they have to switch so many schools. Like she was in nine different high schools. Like she was in nine different high schools and eventually the credits don't transfer and you get so far behind you end up having to drop out and eventually get your GED."

Kendrick describes how she felt when she moved in with her foster parents at 15.

Kendrick: "It's a strange feeling to just go and see this random person's house and start living with them. You know you come to college and get some random roommate. Well imagine that when you are 15 and its for the rest of your life. It was more you know I have been a parent for four years now, you know I don't need you."

Because she had to take care of her five younger siblings at a young age, Kendrick says she feels like she couldn't be a typical carefree teenager.

Kendrick: "I really feel like I missed out on the early part. The part when you are becoming a teenager. Because of course I was being the adult in the family. And then I felt so guarded after that I felt like I didn't have a chance to go back and be a teenager. I guess I got to participate in the activities, but I just felt so much older and I didn't feel like I had the freedom to go out and explore like a lot of other teens do. I felt like I had to have my guard up in case something happened."

Once she started college, Kendrick found out how hard it was to provide for her self without parental support.

/kendrick: "Any normal college kid you know they kind of work, they do it, and if they have any troubles they call their parents up. Well its like that, except not having your parents to call up. You have to provide for yourself and you have to kind of go about it differently. Like I have had up to six jobs at one time. I have four right now, just to try and make it."

Kendrick says she deals with the negative stereotypes and misunderstandings associated with older foster kids.

Kendrick: "There's a lot. Uh, that they are bad kids, or they did something wrong and that is why they are in care, uh that they are all crazy. I had a really good friend actually once tell me that all foster kids are psycho, and I kind of laughed and he said what. And I told him I was in care. And he was like what?! No you're not! And I was like, yeah I've been in care for six years."

Kendrick says through her time in foster care, she always kept the mind set that she would make it through successfully.

Kendrick: "I think some people just have more resilient characteristics to them. To their personalities. And I have never accepted that I might not make it. I think a lot of youth get really down on themselves and don't have the stability or help to really see themselves as making it."

Kendrick is on the Youth Advisory Board for the State of Missouri.

The board, made up of older foster youth across the state, provides input on policies relating to Foster Care and Children's Services.

Kendrick is pursuing a degree in psychology and wants to focus on helping older foster youth.