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If I had five minutes to talk to a kid entering foster care, here’s what I’d say to them. And if I could talk with them every day, I’d go over these things with them again and again. But I can’t. So I wrote them down. Please share. Thanks, Ken
This pocket-guide offers easy tips, which are often overlooked, for success in the foster care system and beyond. Drawing on his past experiences as a system kid, Mr. Marteney, offers insightful advice on how a few simple actions can have a huge impact on a foster child’s experience in the system.
Ken Marteney is a third-generation foster kid from the Los Angeles area, having lived in foster homes, boys’ homes, and group homes. After successfully navigating the system, Ken worked his way around the globe traveling as far east as England and as far west as Hawaii.
He’s a normal guy that just happened to have grown up in extraordinary circumstances. He is passionate about kids not only surviving, but thriving while in foster care.
Ken feels like he’s won the lottery every day. He currently resides in Texas, happily married with three kids.
Let’s be clear
On the topic of fear
Is it the dark
Is it the fact
Everyone thinks you’re a mark
Nobody has your back
When you’re attacked
Living in that home
Wishing everyone would leave you alone
You’re thinking Darwin was right
The pecking order requires you to fight
Again and again
That revolving door seems to never end
The key to success is finding a friend
There is someone around you can trust
This action is a must
Be careful who you pick
Don’t fall for a trick
Look for somebody your own age
Don’t feed in to each other’s rage
The answer is not a gun
The question is
How do you have fun
The more you laugh
The more you smile
The more you reject
The system’s bile
It keeps your heart clean
Which stops you from being mean
It’s not cool to fail
It’s not cool to go to jail
It doesn’t make you tough
It’s just a bunch of fluff
Coming from kids that are confused
Don’t be that muse
I’ll tell you what’s tight
Standing up for what’s right
Have fun and keep your mind clear
And watch your fear disappear
I was the kind of foster kid that would stand with you till the end if you were my friend.
Even if it meant standing up to someone bigger, we would both get beat up together.
Even if it meant going AWOL to see some family, I would go with you.
When family members let you down, I would be the one to say dude why do you think we’re here.
I was the kid that would introduce you to everyone when you were new.
I was the kid that would always show you around school.
I was also the kid that would incite a riot.
I was one of those kids that was never quiet.
I was one of those kids that had a knack for getting out of jams.
I was one of those kids that was never really sad.
I always figured out a way of having fun.
That’s what got me through the system.
One of my many placements was MacLaren Hall, Los Angeles county’s hell hole. I spent over a year there — and I still have no complaints.
I was in there when the staff could put their hands on you. Give you a little wall to wall counseling.
I saw my fair share of solitary, known as Room One, where you’re stripped down to your underwear with just a mat in an eight by eight room and the bright lights never go out.
My system ride was no picnic.
It was like a wave of violence and dysfunction in an ocean of despair.
I say keep your eyes open, don’t turn your back on that wave. It will crush you.
Paddle out to it and surf it.
Look at it as an adventure.
You’ll come out less beat up in the end.
Stand tall my little ones
It’s not your fault
After surviving the lies
Don’t be afraid to look others in the eyes
Stand tall when those about you fall
Speak for the weak
Screaming their stories from the highest peak
I will listen for your call
You’re not alone
Last night at my oldest son’s football game a retired soldier was acknowledged in the stadium.
The announcer spoke of all the battles he had endured and all the accommodations he had received.
It made me think of all the kids that made it through foster care.
Some had cushy posts but most survived a war zone surrounded by the enemy for many years.
Think of the accommodations and medals they would receive.
Most of the battles these kids survived would make any soldier weep.
My hat goes off to these heroes.
Be proud you made it through the system.
I know I am.