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Christa Godillot and familyName: Christa Godillot
Hometown: Norristown, Pa

Education/Experience: RN, Psychiatric Nurse at a non-profit behavioral health hospital Current life situation (job, family, etc.) Happily married with three daughters; ages 15, 13 and 11

Briefly describe your history in the child welfare system - number of years, number of placements, experiences, etc... : I was placed in care at age 14 in January of 1985. Initially in a group home and then moved with foster parents. I lived with them until I was 24. They wanted to adopt me but my mother would not relinquish custody. When I aged out of the system it was clear to my parents that I was not ready to be an adult. I was still healing and learning to be a kid. Thanks to their generosity and kindness I was allowed to stay with them and given a chance to mature in an environment where I was supported and guided.

What experience impacted you most while in care? Describe the experience and tell us why: We (my mother, myself and two brothers, ages 10 and 6) had just left a residential program for abused women and children and were living in a home on our own. The week before Christmas my mother did not come home from work. I knew that she had returned to her boyfriend. They soon came for my brothers and me. I remember being terrified. This man had threatened to kill us in the past and had abused me and my brothers over a two-three year period before we left him. The police were called and I was taken to a group home. This was an emergency placement on New Year's Eve. I had to stay at this home for about a month and during that entire time I was treated like a criminal by the staff. I had done nothing wrong. I was a victim, yet daily was told that I should be sent on a "vision quest". I could not understand why my brothers were not placed at that time. My mother eventually (2 years later) lost custody of them too. They were severely neglected and abused over this period. I cannot put into words the pain that this knowledge still causes me. I will always feel like I abandoned them. I felt at the time that the foster care system was not listening to me. They were pushing for reunification and at one meeting suggested that I was "too happy" and should be seen by a therapist. I had been in placement for about a year. I was doing well in school, I had a supportive and loving family who was not harming me physically or sexually and I was being fed. Of course I was happy…this was a no brainer. Some situations cannot and should not be "fixed".

How did the foster care system help you?: They placed me with a family that understood that I would need time to heal and assistance long after 18.

What is your #1 recommendation for youth in the foster care system now?: Extend care to at least age 21. Ensure that these children have basic life skills as well as quality foster home placement.