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  • Life in a Group Home: An Interview With Raquel

    by Pola Rosen, Ed.D.

    “Can you tell my story?” asked Raquel Diaz in a soft voice, her large brown eyes looking directly at me. A former foster child now living in a group home, she approached me quietly after I was a guest on Teen Talk Radio on WNYE.

    “Living in a group home is better than living in a foster home, but people always ask what I did wrong to get to live here,” said Raquel. As her story unfolds, it is clear that Raquel is the victim, not the one at fault. Sexually molested by her father since the age of eight, unable to tell her disbelieving mother, she finally called the police when her father hit her sister.

    A social worker came in every week for three months to investigate until her father was arrested. Raquel and her sister were interviewed by the police for two days and then placed together in a foster home in Brooklyn for nine months.

    Life was difficult. “There was a great deal of fighting among the kids. There were too many of us and I couldn’t concentrate,” explained Raquel. Because of distractions at the foster home and with her biological family, Raquel eventually failed the tenth grade. As a student at Franklin Lane High School, a school far from the group home on Eastern Parkway, she was depressed and overwhelmed by her problems. “I never got to open myself personally to anyone in school,” she said. As a result, she rarely attended.

    Life in the group home is better for Raquel than it was with the foster family. “There is still some fighting but you become more independent,” she explained. “There are three rooms, with two girls living in each. However, there is no personal space and you always have to clean. Some of the other girls are there because their parents are drug addicts or they have been physically abused or abandoned. One girl was abusive to her mom so her mom gave her away.”

    Instead of a traditional school, Raquel attends Jobs For Youth, a vocational program at the Board of Education. “I found Jobs for Youth by myself on the internet in the library. I attend every day from 9 am to 1:30 pm. You don’t have many choices when you don’t have an education,” she said. “So I decided to take the GED and am now waiting for results. Then I have to do an internship. I plan to go to college and major in psychology.” Administration for Children’s Services, the agency that oversees foster care in the City, will help her find grants and scholarships to accomplish this. “I can live in a dorm room,” she happily exclaimed.

    Raquel struggles with loneliness. “The hardest thing about my life is not having anyone to talk to. I finished raising myself,” she said. She agrees that a mentor would have helped her throughout the difficult years. Raquel has been invited to intern at Education Update. #

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