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Woman Pens Touching Viral Post on Growing Up in Foster Care logo 6 days ago Kaitlin Stanford
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At just 19 years old, Desi Henderson has already lived in more homes than some people will in a lifetime, moving 12 different times over the course of 18 years. But that wasn’t because she was a military kid, or had parents who loved to travel. Henderson was one of the 400,000 children who grow up in foster care each year, and knows all too well the ups — and, unfortunately, many many downs — of the system. She recently shared her story in a heartfelt essay that’s going viral on the Humans of Foster Care Facebook page, in hopes of putting a face to foster care — and showing others what it looks like after you’ve come out the other side.

“This is the look of addiction and alcoholism,” she wrote. “This is what broken promises and broken families look like. This is 12 different houses in 18 years. The ups and the downs, the good memories and the bad.”

“This is what happens when your mother abuses alcohol (and you),” she continues. “When your father runs away before you're even born. When you are placed in the care of people who shouldn't have to raise you, but they do.”

The essay is part of a larger photo project Henderson says she’d been thinking about for quite some time. One that she says “became so heavy on my heart that I just had to do it.”

And so, this summer, she finally did. Henderson made her way back to every single foster care home she’d ever stayed in, and took a photo in front of each and every one. No longer a scared child, but a woman emboldened by her past.

Then she sat down and put pen to paper, opening up about the hope and the heartache she felt throughout those years.

“I remember as a kid wishing I could cement myself down so I didn't have to go somewhere else with someone else,” she shared. “I tried so hard to be perfect, but I always fell short. I thought that if I just talked, acted, or looked different, then maybe they would love me. But we're human, and humans err … I have learned that the only perfect, unfailing love comes from God.”

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Most of the homes look okay from the outside, she shared — and in truth, some of them were. “But you never know what goes on behind closed doors,” Henderson notes.

“There were times I didn't think I was going to make it,” she shared. “I attempted suicide in two of these houses. I dealt with self harm in five. I had a gun held to my head in one. I was sexually assaulted in two.”

Reading those words isn’t easy — not when you imagine the scared child who lived through it. But still, she manages to see the silver lining — even in those years of desperation.

“I was loved and cherished in six of them,” Henderson continued. “I had a family in six of them.”

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She tells that if she could go back and tell her younger self just one thing, it would be to "Just hold on. Not every day will be a good day, but that's okay."

The main message Henderson hopes her words convey to others is that no matter where you come from, “you can overcome anything.” Whether it be growing up in a broken home and cycling through the foster care system, or struggling with inner demons of your own.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, and for Henderson, she is now living in that light.

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“A lot of people have a lot of feelings on where I should be right now,” her post continues. “Some think I should be homeless on the streets, some think I should be further along than I am. All that matters is I'm doing the best I can with what I have, and today, that's enough.”

In fact, it’s more than enough. Today, Henderson has the keys to her very own home, and says she’s studying to become a teacher, which has been her passion for a long time.

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“I volunteer with children every opportunity I get,” she shares. “Right now I'm trying to balance full-time work, full-time school, and a social life. It's exhausting!”

She’s also feeling pretty overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that’s come her way since sharing her story. To date, the Humans of Foster Care story has over 6,000 reactions and counting, with hundreds of comments praising Henderson.

“As a former foster kid who aged out, and later became a social worker in this field, I appreciate most that you honestly evaluated your foster homes,” wrote one commenter. “There are lots of bad ones and lots of good ones. As kids and as workers, we're not supposed to talk about the bad ones. I'm SO PROUD OF YOU!”

“Desi, you have it within you to reach incredible heights!” wrote another. “You are perfect right now. Reach for the stars, girl. They are surely yours.”

Countless others thanked her for sharing her story so honestly, and for not letting her struggles derail her from finding her purpose or cloud her vision of a better future. As one woman put it, when she sees the photos of Desi standing in front of each of her former homes, she doesn’t see a woman who grew up in foster care -- instead, she sees “strength, resilience, and a future.”

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