The Heart Knows Something Different

People easily become statistics…whether in poverty, crime, prison, underage pregnancies, or foster care system. We forget people have emotions, aspirations, dreams, fears, insecurities, and passions when all they are to us are numbers.

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The Resident’s Creed

I’m gonna succeed
I’m gonna make it
You may not believe me
but I’m young and strong
and I’m moving on
to make a place for me

So shake your head
and think your thoughts
as if I am deceived
but the last horse in line
doesn’t always finish last
by chance it takes lead

You may notice my wrongs
and when I fall off the track
but you never take the time
to give credit that’s due
when I dust off my knees
and start back

I have many more laps to go
and, yes, bleed blood if I must
bleed because I know
somewhere, out there, there’s a finish line, my destination

whatever it is,
whatever it is,
I will reach it,
I will succeed,
you will see

– Tameka Ross, 19

Tameka Ross is a writer in the novel The Heart Knows Something Different: Teenage Voices from the Foster Care System by Youth Communication. I was given this novel on the first day of my social work internship. The program I am interning with, Independent Living Skills, is a program dedicated to preparing children in the foster care system (ages 14-17) with the basic survival needs prior to aging out of the system and living on their own. This includes but is not limited to: hygiene, cleaning, cooking, finances, sexuality, education, housing, and the work force.

“Most books about foster care are either clinical accounts written by child welfare
professionals, policy tracts by bureaucrats, or memoirs in which adult “survivors”
look back from a great distance on their early years. The Heart Knows Something
Different
, in contrast, is a unique insider’s record: it collects first-hand accounts by
writers who are living in foster care right now and who are speaking directly to others
their age in the same situation” (Youth Communication, p. xvi).

Some examples of the narratives include:

  • Six Months on the Run from the BCW
  • I Lost My Brother to Adoption
  • She’ll Always Be My Mother
  • Finding a Father in the System
  • Why I’m Better Off in Foster Care
  • My Group Home Scapegoat
  • How I Lived a Double Life
  • Kicked Out Because I Was Gay
  • Who’s the Real Problem Child?

This novel is divided into four sections, titled Family; Living in the System; Who am I?; and Looking to the Future.


I started the novel yesterday, and 57 pages later, I am now delving into the second section of the novel. I thought I would have trouble reading the book because I haven’t read a novel on my own time since I was 13, but I have flown through the pages of this book…not because I am speed reading, but because I’m so engulfed in these stories. I take in these stories of the everyday lives these children were living, not only full of several types and episodes of abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, violence, crime, but also full of so many strong emotions, such as disappointment, anger, excitement, fear, hatred, broken hearts, and overall ambiguity, as I try to process everything else I’m left to feel.

I thoroughly encourage empathy, but sometimes I forget the pain behind utilizing empathy. I have not lived any these experiences, but with each word I read, my heart aches more and more. No wonder these children turn to drugs, alcohol, crime, or anything in between… I wouldn’t want to feel anything either. I would, too, want to feel as numb as those aspects of life have the power to make us feel.

There are many types of people in the world. There are observers, feelers, doers, speakers, and everything in between. We are not restricted to being one type of person; instead, there are as many types of people as there are people in the world.

No matter what type of person we are, there is always a desire to see love break through the cracks of the pain we see every day. There are people who desire to change the world, to make people’s lives better, to fix the pain and the social injustice around us…a desire which is better known is compassion. Compassion is defined as a “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it,” and the world is seeping with it…a lot more than we normally can see or acknowledge (Compassion, n.d.).

People easily become statistics…whether in poverty, crime, prison, underage pregnancies, or foster care system. We forget people have emotions, aspirations, dreams, fears, insecurities, and passions when all they are to us are numbers.

In order to really start making a difference in the pain we see, we have to see these numbers as people. We have to put humanity in place of those statistics. We have to show them we see them as individuals with emotions, aspirations, dreams, fears, insecurities, and passions instead of labeled aspects of society.

Empathy doesn’t fix problem, but it does change perspective, which is the beginning of taking better action.


Compassion. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/compassion

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