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"Work hard in high school, make money, and apply to colleges. Take risks that will help you succeed, not fail."

Jennifer Orellana shares #HerStory for #SpeakUp.

"When I was 15 years old I was placed into the foster care system because my sister and I couldn’t manage the amount of physical and psychological abuse we received from our mom. We both decided to run away because we knew the life we were living was not healthy, so when we ended up in a foster home. My family shamed us. It was a big challenge for me to accept the fact that I was part of the reason why my family was ruined. I was provided with a therapist that worked with me for 6 months and I began to understand that nothing was my fault. My brothers and mom made us feel otherwise. Being able to comprehend that nothing was my fault and that I had no control over the traumatic events helped me heal. A few months into being a foster child I had to face a trial. I had to talk about the events that crushed my soul every time, and I had to say it in front of the court system and my family. Looking down while describing horrific events to people that didn’t understand my pain had an impact on me until I grew from the pain. Being an introvert helped me heal in so many ways because I learned to accept facts. Things I had no control over were becoming part of the past and up to this day, I can say that I’m proud of myself for never giving up on what I believed in. All the burdens helped me shape the person I am today.

While emancipating from the foster care system, I think I realized that I needed to listen to my foster mom. There’s no doubt in my mind that I could’ve had an easier life if I had just listened to the advice she gave me and applied it to what I was doing. I had everything because the system gave me all the resources I needed, yet the people I surrounded myself with were the ones who brought me down.

The system has taught me to love myself. I met so many social workers, therapists, counselors, and mentors who showed me that they cared. The most important person that showed me love is my foster mom. She put up with me and my sister, while we were rebellious, but she never gave up on me. That woman was a true definition of a mother and I appreciate everything she has done for me when I was going through really difficult times.

I have a lot of advice to give to foster youth, but the most important advice I can give is to stay in the system as long as they offer. We are not alone and the system is here to help us succeed. Even though it’s not easy just remember if you work hard now, you can have fun later. The system provides housing assistance and money for clothes, transportation, car insurance and school supplies. Don’t let all of that help go to waste just because you may be tired of social workers always checking up on you or you don’t want to be a 'foster child' anymore."

Foster Nation