After spending 20 of his 21 years in foster care, separated from his siblings, and passed around between foster families and group homes, Noel Anaya recently aged out of the foster care system in the Bay Area. Noel and Youth Radio were able to record the young man’s last court hearing, which is a rare occurrence. In front of the judge, who called Noel “one of our more successful young adults,” Noel read a goodbye letter he wrote about his time in foster care, which he described as “gray hands.”
“This is the year that I divorce you…” Noel read. “Your grey hands can no longer hurt me, your grey hands can never overpower me, your gray hands can never tell me that you love me because it’s too late.”
Noel asked how a person like him could spend his entire life in foster care without finding a loving adoptive family. “I used to dream of it,” Noel writes in a story for Youth Radio. “Having a mom and dad, siblings to play with … a dog. But when I hit 12, I realized that I was getting old.”
Noel said he had hoped to graduate college before losing the benefits of foster care—including stipends for housing and food—but the young man is still a junior. “I’m committed to getting my bachelor’s, despite the odds being terrible,” Noel said. Fewer than 10% of foster youth obtain a degree. Many former foster youth become homeless within the first year of leaving the foster care system.
Despite fears about losing services provided by the system Noel said he was “relieved to finally get away from a system that ultimately failed me on its biggest promise: that one day it would find me a family who would love me.”
At the end of the hearing to bring closure to Noel’s time in the child welfare system, Noel asked that the judge bring down the gavel.
“You know we never do that in real life,” said the judge as he brought the gavel down.