As a former foster youth, Shreya Ramachandran has sustained more trauma and grief than most people face in their lifetime. Yet, as she tells her story, Shreya focuses on the faithfulness of God. This is her account of finding hope and healing in Christ as a former foster youth.
Losing Her Father
Shreya Ramachandran was born in India and moved to the United States with her family when she was two years old. From an early age, Shreya remembers that her parents tried their best to love her and her sister, but they were often very dysfunctional. Her parents often had tension between themselves and their extended family.
When Shreya was eight years old, her father was diagnosed with stage four brain cancer. After two years of battling cancer, he passed away. This left Shreya, her sister, and their mother all alone in a country that was foreign to them.
Making the Call to the Police
“My mother, being single and alone, felt that there was no other way to take care of us than to make really poor decisions for our safety,” Shreya reveals. At the age of 12, Shreya made a call to the police that changed her life.
“All I knew that day when I called the police is that I needed to be safe,” Shreya explains. “I didn’t want to separate my family, but I knew that safety mattered more.” Shreya and her sister entered foster care.
For several months after entering foster care, Shreya and her sister had no idea whether they would reunify with her biological mother. Their mother faced trials and hearings to determine if she was fit to care for her daughters.
During this time, Shreya wrestled with knowing whether she even wanted to be reunited. Part of her wanted to stay away from her mother for safety reasons. “But,” Shreya confesses, “another part of me deeply wanted my family back together.”
When Reunification Was No Longer Possible
Shreya remembers the exact moment when she learned that reunification was no longer an option.
“I was with my counselor who was assigned to me by the Department of Children and Family Services in the state of Illinois,” she recalls. “She sat me down on a bench, and she told me that my mother had gone back to India.”
Shreya’s biological mother had not told anyone that she was planning to leave the United States. The abrupt nature of their mother’s departure meant that Shreya and her sister would likely never return to their mother’s custody.
At this point, Shreya and her sister had been living with their second foster family–the Grosses–for almost two years. Now that reunification was no longer plausible, the foster care case for the two youths turned towards adoption.
Adoption and a Covenant
Right before Christmas in 2014, Shreya and her sister were adopted by the Gross family. “I felt overjoyed to be with them forever because they already felt like my family,” Shreya shares. “But there was also something to be grieved and something to be lost there.”
Shreya remembers the adoption day clearly. There was a celebration at the courthouse with friends and family. Shreya and her sister each received a ring from their adoptive parents. The rings had been engraved with the adoption date, the girls’ names, and the words, “We love you.”
The rings were significant–as well as the names engraved. “My family definitely views adoption in covenantal terms,” Shreya explains. Similar to a marriage covenant, her parents bought a ring for her to wear.
In the same way that God renamed Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel, Shreya received a new name, as well. “My family didn’t want to erase the name that I already had because it was who I was, but they just gave me a new name on top of it.” Since Shreya had not been given a middle name at birth, her adoptive parents gave her the middle name Faith.
Experiencing Trauma, Grief, and Shame as a Former Foster Youth
Despite the celebration and joy that Shreya felt in being adopted, she still carried trauma, grief, and shame. She mourned the loss of her father, who had passed away before she entered foster care. She mourned the loss of her mother, who is still alive but with whom she has a deeply severed relationship.
In many ways, Shreya grieved the loss of her childhood.
A child is never to blame for the abuse they experience. However, many children and youth who enter foster care struggle with feelings of guilt and shame. Shreya has experienced this, as well.
“I would say that shame and guilt are things that continually follow me throughout my life,” Shreya reveals. As the one who called the police to rescue herself and her sister from an unsafe situation, Shreya understands the shame that comes with that decision.
Seeing God’s Hand In Her Story
However, there is healing found in Christ. Shreya poignantly recognizes the places in which God intervened in her life to lead her into a place of healing.
“When I think back to the early years of being in foster care and even being adopted, I think about how far I’ve come,” Shreya states. “And I think about all of the people that God has put into my life to help me grow and process and heal.”
Shreya also sees that God is continuing to heal her. “I know I’m still such a long way from feeling healed, and I know that some of that hope will not fully manifest until the new Kingdom. There will always be scars inside of me from my childhood,” she insists. “But when I look back now, I can’t help but celebrate the faithfulness of God.”
Shreya is currently a TEOSL student at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. “I know that God is calling me to minister in some way to the nations,” she asserts. “I would say that being in foster care and being adopted has given me glimpses here on Earth of what a holistic ministry looks like, what redemption looks like, what salvation tangibly can look like.”
Every Role is Important
As a former foster youth, Shreya has seen God’s faithfulness displayed through the people He placed in her life. God surrounded Shreya with godly and loving foster parents, case workers, counselors, friends, and others.
One of the clearest examples of God’s faithfulness to Shreya was her court appointed special advocate (CASA). “She [the CASA] was with us even though everything else in our life was constantly changing,” Shreya says. “And having that kind of consistency just shows that God was looking out for us. He wanted us to have just one thing that was consistent when everything else was changing.”
Shreya knows how one person can make such an immense impact on the life of a child in foster care. For that reason, she encourages people who are considering foster care and adoption as their mission field to recognize that every single role is important. “You never know what God is doing with that child’s story.” And as Shreya can attest, you never know where that child will go.
To learn more about getting involved with foster care and adoption, visit WaitNoMore.org.