Episode 006

Zachary Reinhart (who we have highlighted on the blog before https://www.raisingconfidentteens.com/2019/06/29/a-daring-profile-zachary-reinhart) joined us on the podcast to discuss teens in foster care. He gave us some insight into the confusing feelings and emotions that teens experience when they are put into care.

Teens who are just coming into care struggle with the transition; we need to respect their need to privacy while they process through the traumatic changes they are experiencing. We also talked about just being present and supportive of teens going through this experience and being willing to “sit with them in the darkness.”

We discussed how the people in his church have helped him heal and made him feel like he was not alone because of how much they care for him and all the foster kids in the community. He also gave us advice on things we can do to help teens in foster care who may be in similar situations.

He discussed how he came to the conclusion that, “You can’t let anybody else choose your happiness for you. You have to consciously make a decision to wake up every day and say, “Who am I going to be today? Who do I want to be today?”

The message he most wanted to share with everyone going through hard times – “God has not forgotten you.”

Zachary’s Facebook group:

https://www.facebook.com/FaithFostersHope1/

If you like the show, please review us on your podcaster of choice! Feedback, ideas for topics and guest appearances are always welcome at [email protected].

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Transcript of Episode

Episode Six – Special Guest – Zachary Reinhart

Welcome to the Be Daring Life podcast, I’m your host, Hudson, I’m joined by Rachel, Jenna and a special guest Zachary Reinhart

Rachel

Thanks for coming out to Be Daring Life podcast.

Zachary

You’re welcome, I’m glad to be here

Rachel

Today, Zac is joining us to talk to us a little bit about what it’s like being a teen in foster care and telling us a little bit about his story.

Jenna

Can you tell us a little bit about your childhood?

Zachary

My childhood was different. It’s probably not like most kids childhood of course. Growing up with a single mom, it was me and my sister, and things at first seemed like a normal childhood, but then slowly things became different. They, like I said, it wasn’t like most kids childhood. Things started getting more focused towards my sister and I was kind of put in the back burner, and so because of that, there was a lot of resentment towards myself and a lot of self-doubt and stuff like that.

Rachel

So when did it start getting really bad?

Zachary

I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was any point that got really bad or worse than other points. It really, I would say, started around when I was nine or ten And it just continued fluctuated. Sometimes there’d be good time sometimes there would be really bad times. And then about when I was fifteen … was it was when things really started to go downhill.

Hudson

So when you were put into foster care as a teenager, most kids are put in there are children. So do you have a different perspective?

Zachary

There’s definitely a different perspective being older because a lot of the younger kids that I know that went to foster care, they are very… I don’t wanna say unaware, but they are confused and not sure exactly what’s going on even though it’s explained to them, they’re still… there’s a lot of confusion.

They’re not sure why they can’t be with their parents and they’re not sure why they can’t do certain things, like most kids can. They’re not sure why they have to go to court or why they have to see a case worker that comes to their house once a month and things like that. So definitely being older gave me a different look on it because I was completely aware and I was completely in the understanding of what was going on, I knew why I couldn’t live with my family, I knew why I had to have a case worker come to my house, I knew… and expected all the things that where to come, it wasn’t like I was in the dark, I was more educated in a sense.

Rachel

So did you feel like you should have been removed or like this was the best decision for me?

Zachary

Yeah, this was definitely the best decision for me, yes, I think it was the best decision for me because if I would have stayed in that situation who knows where I’d be now but being with the type of foster parents, I had and just loving my family from a distance really helped me to not hate my family, I feel like if I would have stayed with my family and just grew up with my family now at 20 years old, there’d be a lot of hate. So I think that getting taken out when I did really helped me.

Rachel

Do you wanna talk a little bit about why you were…

Zachary

Yeah I, so I was removed because my mother, she was going through her own stuff, she was… she had an abusive boyfriend who was very abusive towards her, but she took that and put it on to me and my sister, my sister was always the smarter child, my sister was always the more loved child. And so like I said before, there was a lot of me having self-down on myself and thinking that I’m not good enough that I’ll never amount to anything, things like that. And there was also along with just the emotional and verbal abuse there was also physical abuse so all of that combined just made for a very toxic and very unhealthy home life. And I went to church one day and my … a mentor, who happened be a doctor saw certain marks on me and could kinda tell what was going on and so legally he had to report it as a doctor, and so that was the first step to me being removed and then, I was removed.

Rachel

So when you were removed you, did you feel like… like it was your fault? Did you blame yourself for it?

Zachary

I did, because I, I dealing with, of course, the not being good enough, self-doubt, stuff like that, I feel like that maybe I could have done something differently, or maybe it was my fault and things like that, and so yes, there was a lot of blame and towards myself, and towards wishing I could have done things differently.

So, yes, there was a lot of that.

Jenna

Were your friends aware of what was going on with you?

Zachary

So being that I was in high school when it happened, or just starting high school pretty much high school kids are not always very aware and my close friends, yes they did know, but even them, they were uneducated… So I feel like a lot of things, especially around foster care of these days is, it’s not that people don’t care, it’s that people don’t know. People don’t really understand what foster care is. If I walk up to somebody on the street, they wouldn’t understand what it was or if I walked up to somebody at school a teenager, they wouldn’t understand what it was. So my friends, even though they knew something was going on, they didn’t really understand, they didn’t have the knowledge of it. And so that was a hard to thing for me because I didn’t wanna have to continue to relive it over and over again by telling all my friends. Okay, this is what’s going on. Being with that it was still new and still fresh, but yes, they knew that something was going on.

Rachel </>

Did you try to hide it from…

Zachary

I did, I did because at first because I felt like people might look at me like, I was broken or damaged, and that people would not want to hang out with me or not, wanna be friends with me or something, because they felt that I was damaged or broken and so I tried for a long time, to keep it a secret. It’s hard to keep it a secret when the case worker and pulls you out of class because he has to talk to you or things like that. It starts getting to the point to where it’s hard to keep things a secret. Or when other students or friends ask you about, you know, your parents or what did you and your parents do this weekend or things like that, and that’s something that you can’t just lie and try to pushed off like, “Oh we just went to the beach” or something. Or I might be just having a normal conversation and I might accidentally say Oh me, and my foster parents. And then people started asking questions or What are foster parents and stuff like that?

So as much as you try to keep it a secret, it ends up coming out.

Hudson

How did they help?

Zachary

How did my foster parents help? Or how did my friends help?

Hudson

How did your friends help?

Zachary

My friends, because the really close friends that I had, that knew what was going on that I could actually share deeper information than I could with other people they were, even though at first I thought that they weren’t going to accept what was going on, they were very accepting and they supported me, they were there for me if I needed to talk or anything like that. They were still very confused. And one of my friends even told me, he said, “I’m not gonna ask a lot of questions because it’ll just confuse me even more”, but he said, “I’m here for you”, to where if I needed to talk or anything like that. And that’s really the main thing that in that situation, that you need is just someone to kind of sit with you in the darkness to where even if they’re not necessarily making strides to very hugely help you, they’re still sitting with you through that process, and they’re there for you.

Rachel

Do you feel like you went through like stages of grief? Grief and loss?

Zachary

Yes, because I went through stages of grief and loss because I felt like… one, I felt like I was grieving my childhood, because having to grow up so early I felt like I never really had a childhood. I also felt like I was grieving my self, my old self and then I also felt like I was grieving, or loss, my parents even through all that stuff, I still, they are still my parents. I still love them, and I felt like being in foster care, I felt like I was grieving my parents in a sense, because I feel like they weren’t… my parents anymore, even though they were.

Rachel

Did you feel like you were when you had a foster family, and foster parents. Did you feel like you were being not true to your real parents?

Yes, and that makes sense. I felt like even when my biological parents would have visits with me and I would say something that my foster parents did that I liked or something like that, I felt like it was hurting my biological parents because I was so happy at things that my foster parents were doing. And so I did feel like I wasn’t in a sense, being true to my biological parents. Umm, I felt like it was hard to be true to both sides at the same time.

Rachel

Right. Can you imagine that as an even younger kid though?

Zachary

As a younger kid I think it’s extremely hard because I’ve seen younger foster kids that don’t really know what’s going on and they end up getting a bond with their foster parents, and they might call their foster parents Mom or Dad, and then when they go back to their biological parents, and their biological parents, might hear them say, mom or dad to the foster parents. I’m sure that is very hard, and that hurts for the parents of which is it should, right? Not because they deserve it, but because that’s still their kid, they still love their child or their children and so I feel like it is hard for a younger kid, because like I said, with me, there wasn’t very much confusion I knew what was going on with them. The younger foster kids, they’re not as knowledgeable as what is going on and so it’s very confusing to them on, like I said, why they’re living with complete strangers, and why they can’t live with their mom and dad that they’ve known for eight years, or six years, or however long. So yeah, I do think it’s as much as foster care in general, is hard. I feel like it is easier in a sense on older kids that it is younger kids, just because you’re more knowledgeable and not completely unaware and confused.

Rachel

And what about anger?

Zachary

There was there a lot of anger at first, at first there was a lot of anger. I could honestly say at first I hated my parents because I felt like… why is it that I see all my friends at school that have these amazing families and have these amazing parents, and then I’m in foster care and … So I was at first, when I went in foster care was more blaming myself and then as I started going through it, it got to the point where there’s a lot of anger towards my parents to where it was like, why would you put me in this situation?

But now that I’m further along and going through figuring myself out and things like that, there’s not so much anger anymore, as much as wanting my parents to get better and get the help that they need, and even though I’ll never live with them again, the fact that they can get help and become just better people inside themselves just shows that they’re trying in a sense. And so, there’s not hardly any anger anymore.

Rachel

So I know that you go to an amazing church, that more than any other church I’ve ever seen does a lot for foster children and their families. I know, your pastor, he gives one day a week to help the foster care crisis.

So how do you think that environment helped you heal?

Zachary

It helped me heal because it’s not like there’s just one foster family in that church. I believe there’s fourteen or so foster families in that church that are actively fostering. One of them of course is Taryn and Jessie Howell who, at any given time, have eleven kids or so in their home and they just actually adopted three kids, on top of the four that they already had.

So just being in that church around people and that have a heart like that, and just also being around foster kids.

I’m probably the oldest.

All of them are younger, but just being able to be a mentor to them, and help them, and just be around a church family that just cares so much about the foster care crisis and just wants to help all these young children and young teens and everything just really helps with healing.

Jenna

You choosen to use what you have went through to help others. So can you tell us what you’ve done and are doing to help others.

Zachary

So, I have this little business if you will, is called Faith Fosters Hope and something that we do is we make bracelets for kids in foster care and each bracelet is unique and each bracelet comes with an inspirational quote. And it pretty much just… s something, it’s something small, but it’s something that shows that there’s people that care about you and there’s people that want to help you and want to sit with you in the darkness like my friend sat with me. And so we do things like that. We also are, right now, in the process of planning a event just to get a bunch of foster kids together so they can see that they’re not alone in this community and find friends and find people who have gone through similar situations, and just want to be a part of a family. And so that’s something we’re looking into right now. Just having like a day that it’s just a big fun of events that just it really just brings the community together and just shows that even though you think you’re alone you’re not.

Rachel

Would you say it’s teenagers in foster care that are the group that is the most neglected do you think?

Honestly, I would say no, I would say that it’s the younger kids, and the reason I say that is because the teenagers in a sense, get more help, if you will, then it of course more benefits to live on your own, stuff like that. But the reason I think that the younger kids are more neglected is because my case worker makes it a point to text me, keep tabs on me, check up on me. He knows practically my whole life, he knows what I’m doing at any given time.

The younger kids what I’ve noticed is that, and it’s not anybody’s fault, but the case workers get overwhelmed. The case workers could have, let’s say, one case worker has twenty kids that they take care of that they have to see each one at least once a month along with court dates and all this other stuff. A case worker could get overwhelmed, and quit. Well that case workers twenty kids get spread apart between other case workers. So then instead of a case worker having twenty kids, they might have twenty-five and now they have to, again, divy up their time to go to court and see each kid and stuff like that, and so a lot of kids, if they do get seen by their case worker each month, it’s for a very short time, they really don’t form a relationship. And in that instance, I’ve seen a lot of case workers that are very stressed and overworked and a lot of them smoke because of their stress, and so I feel like I honestly feel like the younger kids are more neglected, not because of anyone’s fault, but just because there’s so many kids in foster care, and not enough case workers and people to help them.

Rachel

So how is that different for the teens, a case worker still has to see them the same.

Zachary

Yes, it’s different because my case worker has a certain amount of kids. He might have fourteen teenagers, but he doesn’t have to do as many things as the younger kids wants to the younger kids, they have to at least be seen once or twice a month, they have to check up on all these different avenues in the kid’s life. Just like when I was in younger kids foster care, I had a guardian ad litem, and stuff like that but I… My teenager or my adult case worker as he… We do probably see each other once a month, but we don’t have to… We just do it because it’s a good check up, but we don’t have to. He lets me know he calls me or texts me if anything happens that we need to work on stuff like that. But when you’re younger, and your in foster care everything has to go through the foster parents, everything is with foster parents and the schedule around all these different avenues and everything, and so it’s a lot more, I guess, in a sense, lenient when you’re older, because you don’t have to….

Rachel

you’re saying like an older team an older team adult test a lot easier, than when.

Zachary

Yes, yes because they’re teaching you in the adult foster care or a teenager foster care they’re teaching you to learn independence and learn to be your own voice and do things for yourself. When you’re younger than eighteen, and in the younger kids foster care, it’s more of they’re your voice for you, and you’re not very independent. So, in teaching you to be independent, they’re teaching you how to budget, how to do things on your own, how to do good in school, they’re giving you all the tools to succeed.

Rachel

So you feel like you got a pretty good training about those areas?

Yes, I have my case worker is very good about helping me if I have any questions about budgeting, or if I have any questions about just any adult-ing things in general, he’s there and he will answer those questions.

Rachel

It’s like a kid that’s not in foster care, they have a problem to just call her mom or dad, right? Do you feel a lot, do you feel that void a lot like I wish I had somebody tell me, talk to me about dating, and …

Zachary

It’s funny when you think about it, but it’s true that there… like I said, you see especially I think one of the hardest things for me was… You see these your friends and their families that their families are just so happy and they have all these big family holidays and just have this amazing family dynamic. And then I used to look at myself, and I’d be like, why can’t I have that, why is it that I have to either spend my birthday alone or do a lot of things by myself? Why can’t my family be like those families? And that goes back to the whole point of when I used to have the resentment and everything like that, and the anger, but now it’s to the point to where I can’t, and this isn’t just for myself. This could be for anybody. You can’t let anybody else choose your happiness for you.

You have to consciously make a decision every day to wake up and say, “Who am I gonna be today”, and “who do I want to be today?”. And just even if it’s just two things every day that you’re thankful for, that you thank God for you, just have to find ways to make yourself happy. You can’t rely on other people to make yourself happy because that’s when you get to the point of where I was where I didn’t feel good enough, and there was a lot of depression. And stuff like that, because I was depending on other people to make me happy, instead of my self.

Rachel

So how do you think…because I’ve know you a little while. You seem like you’re in a really, really good place right now. I know you struggled a lot with depression and suicidal thoughts and you said we are free to talk about this, right? so what was it, the therapy that helped you get through all that? And this is recently… Do you feel like I’m at the best place I’ve ever been at…

Zachary

So I don’t feel like I’m at the best place I’ve ever been yet and I’m happy to share this. I, of course, have dealt with depression and anxiety and stuff like that. And almost a year ago, back in May, I believe it was May the sixth to be exact, of 2019, I had overdosed on my medication, and I ended up in a coma on life support for three days and they weren’t sure if I was gonna wake up, I… because I was in a very dark place. Because that was also around the time I was was dealing with .. Yeah, so I’m not good enough. Things like that which are common thoughts not just foster kids, but normal people have. And so going through that I still struggle, I still, in a lot of cases, if something happens, I think I’m not good enough, or things like that. But going through that situation, I did back in May, it made me realize that, like I said before, you can’t depend on other people to make you happy because that’s when you fall down the rabbit hole and that’s when you just start going down a spiral that it’s very hard to come up from.

And so, yes, I think the therapy did help.

They teach you really good things in therapy and I think there’s a lot of people out there myself, included before that, a lot of people hate therapy because they think I don’t wanna talk to somebody about my problems.

I used to be that way. I used to be that way about therapy and about taking anti-depressive medicine and stuff like that because I felt like I shouldn’t have to talk to somebody about my problems and I felt like I shouldn’t have to take medicine to be happy when everybody else around me is happy just fine, but going through therapy and going through all that stuff, it made me realize that therapy can actually be a stepping stone to where you want to go. It could be a stepping stone to the person that you want to be, but you just don’t have the correct tools to get there.

Hudson

Is there something you would like to share with the teens that are going through the similar situations.

Zachary

For teams, not just teens – for teens, young children, adults, anybody going through this situation or even anybody that’s not even involved in foster care, just that is going through anything in their life.

There’s a quote that I heard one time that it stuck with me, I heard of so many years ago and it stuck with me and I truly try to live by this quote. It’s five words. “God has not forgotten you.” No matter what anybody goes through in their life, whether it’s foster care, whether it’s you know anything, God has not forgotten you.

Jenna

What can teens do to help other teams that are going through foster care.

Zachary

I think that one of the big things that teens can do to help other teens or even just help younger kids in foster care, is be a, not just a role model, but be a big sister, a big brother. Because even the younger kids that are in foster care they need is somebody to look up to, they need somebody who cares and can help them and give them advice that maybe their foster parents can’t.

And so I think for the younger kids, just be a role model. And for the older kids, I think, like I said, before, just be present just this is something very unique for a teenager in high school to have to go through these sort of things and I think that just to be present sit with your friends through the darkness and don’t make the foster child or foster teen, whoever don’t make them share more than they would like. A lot of people like to ask a bunch of questions just because they are an uneducated and me, for example, I’m perfectly comfortable sharing my story now, but if you would have asked me four years ago I wouldn’t have wanted to share anything. And so especially for people that are new to foster care, don’t make them tell you their story, wait for them to tell you their story because they just might not be ready yet. And the more that you push the more they push away and then, they’ll never tell you and they’ll never share their story. And the biggest thing I could say for even adults is just…

I’m gonna take this quote from My Father’s Arrrows, is just say “Yes”. That anybody can do something that no matter if it’s taking a child to a doctor’s appointment, or sitting with them because they need somebody to talk to or just anything, just anybody can do something that there’s always something that can be done.

Hudson

So where can we find you like on Instagram or Facebook

Zachary

So you can look up Faith Fosters Fope on Instagram or Facebook. We don’t have a website yet, but you can look it up on Facebook, or Instagram and we have… We try to post, we try to do daily, but a lot of times that doesn’t happen but we try to post just inspirational stories and inspirational messages, just because we want people to know that there’s always somebody there that cares and I put this on a lot of my posts that if you need somebody to talk to or if you want to share any part of your story you can reach out to us, because we are or more than happy to listen and to even if we don’t give you any advice just to sit with you through the darkness.

Rachel

Thanks for coming out and talking to us today Zack. We really appreciate it for one willing to share your story and helping others with it.

Zachary

Thank you guys for having me.

Jenna

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“Do or do not. There is no try.” ―Yoda