In anticipation of National Adoption Day, CCAI interviewed Latena Hazard, a 2016 CCAI Fall Policy Intern, about her experiences in foster care and as an adoptee. Latena is from Worcester, Massachusetts, is a second-year law school student at Catholic University and believes every child deserves to be heard. We agree and hope you enjoy reading about her reflections on adoption from foster care.
CCAI: How did being placed into foster care make you feel?
Latena: I didn’t understand the concept of foster care until I was roughly 7 years-old. Being in the foster care system gave me a sense of loneliness and that I didn’t belong. As children moved in and out of the house, you never knew if you were next. There were times when we were threatened with removal and school transfers. Foster care turned me into a people pleaser, afraid to do any wrong and always wanting and craving the acceptance of others. I always had questions that couldn’t be answered; mainly, why was I placed in foster care? Looking for and not receiving answers made me question my self-worth.
CCAI: What were the difficulties you experienced in foster care?
Latena: I think the most difficult thing about being in the foster care system was keeping and maintaining fulfilling friendships. I battle with attachment issues, and it became difficult trusting people enough to establish a connection. My foster home always had children coming and going, and I just always thought, “why build a connection when they’ll end up leaving anyways?”
CCAI: Tell us about your adoption story.
Latena: My sister Latoya and I were placed into foster care at the age of two and adopted together at the age of six. We were adopted by an amazing couple, Joseph and Phyllis Hazard. My parents were in their late 50’s when they adopted us. About that same time, they adopted Kristina Rose, and she became our little sister. Three years later our father passed away and although my heart was broken, I was grateful to be in my mother’s care. Because of these unfortunate circumstances, it left my mom with little help, and, eventually, Latoya and Kristina were taken out of the home. Latoya was placed in a foster home with terrible living conditions and Kristina went into a group home. While Kristina was placed back into the foster care system, I am forever grateful that my sister Latoya and I were reunited with my adoptive mom shortly after, and Kristina came back home a couple years later.
CCAI: Why is family important to you?
Latena: Family is the foundation of society in my opinion. They say you can’t choose your family, but in adoption, you’re someone’s choice. Having a family provides you with a better understanding of self, builds your self-confidence, secures your values and helps with communication skills. My family is everything to me; without them I would not be the person I am today. They are always there to guide me and give encouragement, to cheer me up when I’m down and to let me know that things will get better. They are my rock, and the reason I continue to do my best. I tell my mom every day that she’s the biggest blessing that could have ever happened to me.
CCAI: What are some of your proudest accomplishments?
Latena: I wouldn’t be where I am had it not been for my mom adopting me. I have accomplished a lot over the last few years. My biggest accomplishment is being a member of the United States Navy on board the U.S.S. Essex and my current service in the U.S. Navy Reserves. I have traveled the world to protect and defend against foreign and domestic threats.
In addition, I battled the stereotype associated with foster care and education. High school was difficult, and I barely graduated. Achieving academic success wasn’t on my radar. However, in 2012, I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Howard University, then went on to receive my Masters in Journalism from The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Now, I plan to obtain my law degree from The Catholic University Columbus School of Law in 2018. Once I graduate from law school, I hope to practice family law and work on cases that will allow foster care children to have a voice. The desire to persevere and achieve was instilled in me during my time in foster care, and although it’s been a difficult journey I am proud of where I am today.
CCAI: Why is celebrating National Adoption Day significant?
Latena: National Adoption Day addresses a problem that needs to be dealt with in U.S. foster care. Adoption provides children with a loving, secure, structured environment to excel and be happy. There is so much that one person can do to bring joy into the life of a child.
National Adoption Day is one of CCAI’s signature focuses during National Adoption Month each November.