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Aaron Weaver, 25, of Oregon was placed into foster care at birth. Despite being adopted by a loving family at age six, many of the injustices he experienced in foster care have stayed with him throughout his life.

Aaron now devotes his time to improving the system in his work with FosterClub, a national network of young people in foster care. He hopes to one day become a full-time writer while continuing his work to positively impact the lives of traumatized youth.

Aaron's story in his own words

Slow breaths making the sound of a whistle were the only sounds I could hear as I stood in the kitchen surrounded by early morning darkness. The only light filtered in through three small windows; the moon was full and perched high in the sky that night. As I stared down, listening to my own breaths and feeling the blood pound against the side of my head in that slow rhythm, the thought came again. Tears began to drop down my face as I reached my arm into the trashcan, trying to find the thrown away pieces of last night’s dinner.

The salty water trickled down my young face while I put spaghetti into my mouth, the meat sauce dropping down my chin. Every swallow pushed back the thought, but did little to fill the emptiness that twisted my gut.

The trash picked clean, I lay curled in a ball on the cold linoleum floor. Weariness began to soften the images in my mind, and I stumbled as I stood, physically exhausted.

I walked out of the kitchen; through the dining room past the antique hutch filled with plates, took a left and climbed the steps being careful to not step where the carpet covered old wood would creak in protest. I was thankful my door was the first in the hallway. I walked across my room, my first all mine room, and hopped into the bed that was as tall as me; the bed my foster parents had promised would be mine as long as I wanted the elevated dark maple single bed frame with the extra comfy mattress.

I pulled my blanket to my chin, warm already in my blue footed pajamas. My eyelids slowly began to find their other halves when again that thought shot through the warmth and sent cold tremors up the back of my neck and onto the top of my blonde head. I rolled onto my stomach and began to hum and bang my head against the tops of my hands.

"What if they don’t want me anymore and tomorrow they send me away?" This agonizingly painful idea was always sitting in wait at the back of my conscience; stalking my happy dreams in which this would be my forever family; the despair driven belief ready to pounce and destroy those happy dreams whenever I began to push away the memories of hunger, abandonment, and abuse.

I banged my head harder and harder, humming more intensely, trying to forget the torture, to kill the monster lurking in my mind. A deep voice rumbled through the dark.

"Aaron, quit the humming, you are waking everyone up!" The voice belonged to my foster Dad, a loving man in every way but a little cranky when woken up sooner than he wanted.

"Get some sleep Aaron, tomorrow you have a long day. You are going to want to have lots of energy for when they pick you up." His voice was much gentler with these words. My mind raced as my heart withered and died. I heard the door to my foster parents’ bedroom door shut at the end of the hallway.

"What long day? No one said anything. Who is coming to take me away? Did I do it again? Did I make these people not love me anymore?" The ideas and dark visions violently thrashed any beginnings of hope about the following day. I slid from my bed, not making a sound but silently sobbing uncontrollably. I went to my closet and pulled out my tiny, tattered yellow vinyl suitcase. I slammed the suitcase onto my bed. That suitcase was the same one that I always had to pack before leaving and switching families.

I packed clothes, a few toys, and a picture of the foster family; then I dressed, and I sat on my bed and waited in the dark. I sat afraid, broken, and alone in the dark.

The sun was just beginning to spread the multi-colored warmth when I heard my parents’ door open, and then the footsteps coming down the hallway. My foster Mom paused in front of my door, and then reached one of her long lovely feminine hands in to turn on my light.

"Aaron, why are you up so early?" My foster Mom barely whispered the words before lightly tip-toeing to my bed and placing one arm around me as she sat down.

"I am all ready to go, and I even already packed."

"Sweetie, you are not staying the night at Grandma and Grandpas’ house, just during the day so Dad and I can go shopping. Maybe we can talk to them and see if they will let you spend the night anyway. Is that what you want to do?" My heart swelled with hopeful rejuvenation.

"Ye…No…I want to stay here tonight." I fought back the tears.

"Okay. It is whatever you want to do Sweetie," she said through kisses on my forehead, "You want to come help me get breakfast ready?" On our way out the door, my Mom noticed my tiny, tattered vinyl yellow suitcase.

"Oh, why don’t we just throw that thing away and go get you a new bag? This thing is just filthy!"

"Mommy, can I take it to the trashcan outside?"

"Yep, you sure can. Let’s get this unpacked." She unzipped the suitcase and a little smile illuminated her face as she held up the picture of the family, me sitting in the middle of my foster Mom and Dad and two Brothers. My foster Mom came over and gave me a big hug.

With every kick the heaviness upon my heart lightened. That symbol of my fear was in two pieces and smashed, barely recognizable as a suitcase. Panting, I finally picked up the pieces and threw them into the large brown trashcan, a toothy grin dominating my face.

I went inside, up the steps and into the kitchen. My foster Mom turned and smiled. My foster Dad strode into the kitchen and gave me a bear hug. Then that evil thought came once again. I squeezed my foster Dad’s neck tighter, and the thought slowly weakened, until I locked that monster in the deepest part of my mind.

"Aaron thought he was going to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpas’, and boy he was gonna miss us, he even packed a picture," My foster Dad squeezed a little harder, "Isn’t that right Aaron?" I simply said, "Yes." I knew my foster parents would never know just how much.

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