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Editorial: From the Edge

 by Megan Irwin  published on Thursday, October 6, 2005


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The first day I met Andrea her pants were just a little too short and tight. Her sneakers were gray with dirt. Her long hair was scraggly at the ends and shone with oil. Even though we were only 11, her eyes were much older.

She was a foster kid who came to my elementary school about halfway through fifth grade. No one really liked her except me. I was struggling through my first year of public school. I had glasses bigger than my face and about two friends. And I thought Andrea was the coolest person in the world.

I'm sure that if she had a choice she would've avoided me, a girl who had never even said "the eff word" out loud. But somehow we became friends, probably because no one else would talk to her. She told me about life in the foster-care system. What it's like to have your mom tell you, "I'm coming to get you this weekend," every weekend for a year and never show up. She spoke bitterly of her foster mother, how she favored her real kids and constantly called Andrea stupid and even worse, called her a whore.

I would take this in breathlessly as we sat under a giant eucalyptus tree on the playground of our school. Later, we carved our initials into that tree and vowed to be "friends forever."

Unfortunately, nothing is forever when you are an 11-year-old foster child. A few months after we met, Andrea had to leave. I asked my teacher where she'd gone and was simply told, "Andrea had to leave." Months later I got a letter from her in the mail, postmarked New Mexico, telling me not to worry. I wrote her back, but I never heard from her again after that first letter.

As I edited this week's cover story on ageing out of foster care (Beating the System, page 8) my mind returned to Andrea over and over again. The subject of the story, Lupe Tovar, pulled herself out of foster care and has managed to become a successful ASU student. I can only hope my childhood friend had the same luck. Tovar's story gives me some comfort; she beat the odds, maybe my friend did, too. Tovar never gave up, and somewhere along the line she learned to believe in herself. I prefer to think Andrea did, too.

When I think of her now, I see her eyes, old and sad, but so full of hope. And I see myself too, shy and unsure of myself, but also full of hope that this wild creature I called my friend would someday be OK.

I have no idea where she is, but I hope that Andrea, and every other foster child who has survived the horror of growing up, has found the same peace and success as Tovar.

Megan Irwin is the editor in chief of SPM. Reach her at megan.irwin@asu.edu.



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