Olivia Jesolva and Her Experience with Foster Care
By Makayla Richardson (12)
Since 2016, senior Olivia Jesolva and her family have taken part in fostering children. Her family’s actions have driven this Ayala senior to have many epiphanies about her life and the lives around her. Now, the curtain is drawn back as the foster care system can be seen through the eyes of one on the front lines.
Although each case varies, the foster care system as a whole “is really messy,” says Jesolva. “There are a lot of flaws but there is no other way of doing it” due to the insufficient amount of social workers involved in the system. An issue with this system is that it takes longer for children who are not in the “prime” age range. “Sometimes it takes a while to find a placement especially if they’re older because [people] want toddlers.” The system also attempts to keep siblings together but unfortunately “a lot of the time siblings do get separated.”
One way children are placed in the foster system is through reports. “Most of the time, it is reported by teachers if there’s abuse in the household because they are mandated reporters.”
Next, the reporter will call Child Protective Services, and if they decide that the child is in danger, they will be removed from the dangerous household. Before they are taken to a facility or a home, each child is given five minutes to pack their whole lives into a trash bag. A call is then made for a placement. A placement is when a child is assigned to a foster parent’s home and put in their care. At this point, paperwork has to be done.
Jesolva said, “There are a lot of social workers, lawyers, and attorneys for the children... Each child has their own lawyer, which is weird because the lawyers don’t know the children they represent.” Ultimately what this means is that lawyers decide the fates of anonymous children.
The Jesolva family decided to foster when Olivia’s grandmother passed away. “We always had someone living with us and for a while we lived with just the four of us, we call it the core four. After a while we decided ‘okay, we need more people,’ and we knew it was time.”
When fostering children, the family must come to terms with the possibility that they can leave at any time. Jesolva said, “My family and I are constantly told that we’re saints” but in reality, “it’s just hard.”
With her first foster siblings, two little girls, she prepared herself for their eventual departure since they arrived at their house. “It wasn’t as sudden as it could have been because I had been dealing with that fact for about a year prior.” Jesolva had the mantra of telling herself “this is the best possible situation” for her sisters. Needless to say, she “was still sad and [she] still cried.”
With this experience, Jesolva realized how true the words “you never know what someone’s going through” ring. She had also discovered that she has “become more sympathetic to people,” more specifically toward “people who can’t take care of their kids,” like her current foster sibling’s mother.
Because of her knowledge of the foster care system and her desire to make foster children’s lives better, she was approached to be the vice president in the Together We Rise Club at Ayala. The club aims to educate the student body as “many don’t truly know about the foster care system until they find accessible resources to guide them,” says club president and senior Irene Kim. “I think Together We Rise is a perfect way to bring community work and awareness to such an important matter.”
Though the system may be messy, the choice to foster children and give them the love that they are unable to obtain elsewhere is a life-changing experience for the foster family and the children. Jesolva’s newfound knowledge of the effects of foster care on the child within the system has led her to pursue a degree that will help her become a social worker in the future.