You are 8. You don’t have Mommy or Daddy to hold your hand as you walk up to a strange house. Just a caseworker. You hear a dog barking inside, and it makes you more afraid. You don’t like dogs.
The door opens. A woman comes out and says you don’t have to go inside. Not right away. There are chairs outside she invites you to sit down and talk.
“She was really sweet,” Courtneyrose Hofstede says of the foster mother she met that day.
This is the earliest memory the 29-year-old Hofstede has from a childhood spent in and out of the child welfare system.
There are other vignettes from multiple placements that began when she was a baby and included four attempts at reunification with her biological family.
She remembers a group home where she “cried a lot.” Caseworkers who wouldn’t listen. Being separated from her siblings. Then reunited. Hearing “horror stories” from her sister about her placements.
Hofstede remembers being comforted by a foster mother after her biological mother didn’t show up for a visit, and being mocked by her classmates as the "throw-away kid” and told “your mother doesn’t love you.”
When she aged out of the system at 18, Hofstede says she was expected to act like an adult. But nobody had modeled exactly how to do that.
“If you fall, there should be a net to catch you,” she says. But there wasn’t one.
By 23, she was homeless and “couch hopping.” Unemployed and a college dropout.
Through it all, she blamed herself for the bad things that happened. She attempted suicide “more than once.” She struggled with relationships and was “scared to make friends.”
Hofstede calls it “my broken story.” But she’s piecing it back together.
“I worked so hard not to be a statistic,” she says.
She got involved with a faith-based group called Open Table and the Arizona Friends of Foster Children, which has a scholarship program.
She wants to become a trauma nurse. She’ll be good at it, she says, because she knows how “just a little bit of compassion can help.”
For now, she shares her home with a 15-pound Italian greyhound-Chihuahua mix named Lilly. But someday, she’d like to be a foster parent.
Hofstede keeps in contact with both of her birth parents, and she says she’s “proud of who my parents are today.” They both had difficult childhoods, she explains.
“Your parents can only raise you with what they know,” she says. “My parents loved me the best they could.”
There are couple of things she’d like you to know about foster children.
One is “that they have feelings,” and “trust doesn’t come easy” after being bounced around from home to home and school to school.
The other shows why people should not forget the children in the system.
Hofstede says, “Foster kids can be resilient if you get a little cheerleader in your corner.”