Hear My Voice is a series of first-person testimonies from people with lived experience with the foster care system, created from in-depth interviews. This is Jackson’s story, as told to Abe Louise Young.
Jackson, age 23, aged out of foster care and lives now in Mt. Pleasant, TX.
Be aware that this story discusses substance use and a suicide attempt. If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.
Finding Peace of Mind
I don’t really have family, so everything I do in my life I’ve got to do on my own. I can’t pick up the phone and say, Mom, Dad, I need this. I can’t do that. I get down and nobody tells me keep my head up. I have nobody to comfort me during my hard times. When most people look at me, they’d be like, go back home. I can’t go home. As far as my living situation, I’m just bouncing back and forth from this couch to that couch.
Life today is really hard, but I have peace of mind. I don’t stress no more, I don’t worry about things. I might be broke and be out there homeless, sometimes sleeping in front of a store, but I feel like I found peace of mind.
I found God, and when I found God, everything’s been taken care of for me. Every day in my life, everything has been taken care of. I came from not believing in God—where I would be mad at my dad and mom, you know, and everything in my life was just drama, drama, drama—no matter what I did, it went wrong. It took a lot for me to fight some demons and turn toward God.
What happened to change me is that in Longview, I was homeless on Highway 80 for two and a half years. I was always walking, bouncing from here to there, in and out of jail. And Summer Edmunds took me in and was like a sister to me, and she preached God on me a lot. She is someone I could relate to, somebody I was able to open up to more, saying, you can be my friend. She taught me about God.
Ever since then, I walk the streets, and say a prayer, a little Catholic prayer. And God blesses me by putting money on the ground. He did it four days in a row. And I told him not to. I was like, God, don’t put no money on the ground. On the third day, I was like, God don’t do it, it’d be weird. And he did you know? The fourth day was the weirdest. I’m walking all the way from Rocky Mountain, TX to Pittsburg, TX. And that’s a three-mile walk and it’s 100-degree weather. I didn’t break a sweat. Then I saw a $2 bill on the side of the highway floating in the grass. It registered to me what God does.
He talks to me now—I hear his voice and he tells me things. He put me in a place two weeks ago to save a man’s life. One of my friends’ dad had been through four heart attacks. I was over there and my friend said, ‘I’ll be right back. I gotta go take care of some things, watch my dad for me.’ I’m like, man, I got things to do too! But God said to me, just stay there. Twenty minutes later, the man had another heart attack and nearly died. I had to call an ambulance. I called 911. It was scary. He’s okay now. I’m happy for them.
I’ve seen a lot of people stress themselves out being so mad—and the next thing you know, they end up dead. I’ve had a lot of my friends die on me and they lived life stressing. So I try to be at peace of mind. I come for happiness in any situation. I really don’t need nothing in this life. All we need is love, a friend. Something to eat and something to drink, that’s it. Like we could have been back in the older times chasing dinosaurs, you feel me?
My Foster Care Journey
For other kids in foster care, for my advice, I’d say just keep your head up. Play it smart. If they say they’re gonna do something for you, don’t believe them, because they probably won’t. You probably don’t know who your caseworker is right now. You just got to get through it, and get through the system. The system knows how to play you.
I’ve been in foster care since I was about seven, eight. I used to run away every day from my grandma because they abused us. Every time I got out of school, I used to run away to my dad’s house, like, please come and find me. My dad would be working graveyards and I’d be at his house, hiding.
CPS came one day and kidnapped me. They knew I was walking that route to my dad’s house. They picked me up and drove me to my dad’s house and said some words. I don’t know what happened. I was in the car. And they sent me to shelter placement then took me to a facility which got shut down. They did me wrong. They lied to me. My dad called all the time but they didn’t give me a call one time. The only thing they ever told me about him was, “Your dad died.” I was 10. That’s the only person that had in my life, my dad.
The only house I had, my dad’s house, burned down. It was up on Pleasant Street in Pittsburg. It burned down because somebody was cooking dope, illegal drugs. I have good memories there. It was the only place me, my sister and brother had to go.
I ended up going to Rusk, then I went to a place close to Chapel Hill, I believe. And then from there back to Azelway. And then another placement down there in Tyler. And then a placement in Greenville, and then New Haven, and Houston…then I ran away.
I went to Walmart and stole a tent. I walked out of Walmart with a tent coming out of the box and the ladies said, “Okay. Have a good day.” I set that tent up right outside of Walmart. It’s horrible but it’s also funny to me.
Now, CASA used to step in place whenever CPS was trying to move me to different placements and stuff where I didn’t want to go. They stood up for me, they gave me a voice. CASA is good people.
If I have some advice for CASA volunteers, it’s to help kids advocate for themselves with CPS. So as long as you speak up and you’re there for that kid, and you see them every month, talk to them every month, you’re helping.
I went to eight totally different schools. My credits were so mixed up. I’d go to a new school and I’m taking the same classes I already took before. I was close to graduation and they told me I needed six credits, but I done took these classes, man… It’s really hard to know stuff when you’re displaced and you’re doing different subjects. You might be ahead in one school, but now you’re in another school and might not even learn it, you know? I graduated from high school and I even went to college for a little while until things in my life went downhill. I want to go back to college but I don’t know what I need. I don’t know who to call.
I took the wrong pills and ended up in the hospital with liver failure. I was in the ICU for two weeks. And then CPS emancipated me because I had a court date. I ended up in Longview, catching the charge in Dallas and being on the run going back to Longview, and I ended up in the streets pretty much homeless.
By the age of 17, when I emancipated out of CPS, I didn’t have my birth certificate or ID or anything. But I went back to school in Longview and graduated. Then I got a job, an apartment, fell in love with a girl, and everything went downhill from there. The foster parents quit giving me help. They didn’t care no more, honestly. I ended up going to jail, losing everything and ended up on drugs. Dope, heroin, anything I could get my hands on. I was depressed. My girl left, she robbed me. I lost everything.
I had nobody to turn to. I had to go find a place to stay somewhere so I slept outside in front of a store, you know, on hard concrete. I went through a really dark phase in my life. I got underneath a curse and it took me about a year and a half to beat it. I ended up in the hospital speaking in tongues. Do you know nobody told me happy birthday on my birthday? If I could have anything, I would have a friend. Someone to talk to, that’s all I really want in life.
Every day I wake up in a different mindset. Some days I feel like I got everything going for me. Other days, I feel lost. A lot of times I might seem happy but honestly, I’m really sad. I used to cry myself to sleep every day, you know, but now I can’t cry no more. It hurts. I just sleep it off. My body hurts. I got torn ligaments in my right ankle, the collarbones.
I’ve been in and out of jail 11 times. I didn’t do no wrong. The police just messed with me because I “look suspicious.” I kept getting the charge of evading arrest because I freak out and start running. Every time they try to arrest me, I run. I used to hide, scared and nervous. So I have six charges of evading arrest on my record.
My wrist I slit, and I bled for like four days and lost a lot of blood. I tried to kill myself in my grandma’s house and that’s when my cousin told me to live under the bridge. They made me feel like they didn’t know who I was, you know? But I didn’t die. I could’ve died when I got stabbed too, and got shot at. And I’m thankful I haven’t…I know that I’ve got a purpose. All I’m doing is trying to be happy, live life, learn.
I’ve had all kinds of jobs. First, I was a dishwasher down here in Mount Pleasant at Two Senoritas. Second job I had was just at A Line down there on Highway 80. My third job was at Jersey Mike’s, then I worked at Taco Bell in Longview, and Sonic in Pittsburg. Then I worked at Satellite Log Homes and built houses during coronavirus. Then I got unemployment.
When unemployment stopped, I was literally sleeping at parks, on the park bench. Then I heard about the Pandemic Aid [for former foster youth] and I got that money. God, that man upstairs, he put that in play, right? [My friend from CASA] Michelle told me about it.
If I could become an artist and give all my money away, I would. I’m an artist, that’s my dream. That’s all I do all day long. Sit down, make music. I wake up, I turn the speaker on, grab my pen and start writing my music. I freestyle. It’s what makes me happy. My next album is called Lost in Space because I had to lose myself to find myself.
I like to learn on my own. I love learning because it gives me something to do. I learned that you can make money doing anything. You can go knock on doors, mowing lawns. Go around asking. Opportunities come your way when you move around. I like to go on adventures.
I was sleeping with my head on concrete once and I woke up with a cold drink and some chips beside me. So what I did is took a big gulp and started walking. I saw another homeless person, and sat down and gave it to them. They appreciated it. My heart is real big. I’m empathic. I got a lot of love to give.
I want kids. I’m at the mindset now where I can keep my mind on track. I came out with my first album and my music is on Amazon Music, under Yung Fettii. There’s pieces that God spoke to me. I find happiness in music. That’s why I brought my life around and what I want to do in my life. Just keep at it, and be able to be happy doing it. And just, you know, have somebody at my side, somebody to motivate me, not let me get down…
I see a lot of people crying, my kid went to CPS, my kid’s in foster care. They cry about it. I’ll be like, man, stop crying about it. Just know that when that kid gets of age, they’re coming back to you. And you better have your shit together when they come back, because that’s what matters.
I want kids. I want a mini-me. I want to be able to have good money coming in from my music. Own a studio and then that’s my next step, to become a daddy. I feel like I got to start my own family tree. I want three kids. One boy and two girls. And they’re gonna be raised right, you know?
I just love everybody… God is love. Love is God. That’s the main rule. If you learn that, and you do that, He’s gonna take care of you. I might not be blessed with fortunes but I have peace of mind. In a spiritual way, I’m blessed.