"I think the system taught me who I truly am. The system taught me to fight for myself and what I deserve in life."

Michael Gutschmidt shares #HisStory for our #SpeakUp series:

"I think the most defining experience I had in the foster care system was being completely in control of who I was going to be when I got out. What I mean by that is I could either have took all the negative experiences and become this person I wasn't or I could have taken every single experience and built an even stronger me in the end. I think the most challenging experience was the fact of being separated from my mom and grandmother and having to live life pretty much without them and with whatever new family or home I was in. The best part I have to say is that I have extended my family thanks to the system.

I think the one thing I needed most when emancipating was help with housing. Also, it would have been nice to have a support group and be more connected with all that was available to me if I would have known about it.

Overall, the system taught me that not all family is blood. Family is what you make of it and the same principle applies in life. Thanks to the foster care system, I see life from all different perspectives. I have seen all different kinds of personalities that has taught me how to remain happy, social and succeed in life.

Some advice- stay true to who you are no matter what. There are going to be ups and downs of being in the system but do not let the negatives effect you and ride out the positives. I know it may be hard to be separated from family and even if you do not know your family, it's ok to make a new one. The best part of the system is growing up with others in the same or similar situation as you. Be all you can be in the end because it will all be worth it and you will be one of the strongest people on the planet."

Foster Nation