Growing up in foster care: ‘You want to be normal and you can’t,’ San Antonio woman says

Robyn Parker worked with THRU Project to help foster teens in similar situation

SAN ANTONIO – Hundreds of displaced children in Texas have fallen through the cracks of the foster care system, but there are local organizations working to make sure some of those children have a safety net as they age out.

Robyn Parker, 26, connected with one of these organizations after years of instability in the system.

The first time her family was at the center of a child protective services case she was three years old, but she wasn’t removed from her family and put into a foster home until she was a teenager.

“Within six months. I was moved four times,” said Parker. “I was very angry as a teenager and sometimes I took it out on my foster parents. Sometimes I took it out on the foster girls that I was roomed with.”

Many other times, Parker felt she had to hide her emotions and feelings out of fear of not knowing where she would go next.

“I also had to contain myself because if I showed too much emotion or got too difficult, they could notice and send me away,” said Parker. “That was something I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to move anymore.”

Parker’s parents were incarcerated while she was in the system and she wasn’t close to any other family members.

Like many other foster children, every day in the system felt like a struggle for survival and to feel normal.

“You want to be normal and you can’t be normal. And so then you look for ways to rebel and you look for ways to figure out how to process that,” said Parker. “We’re experiencing a lot of emotions and a very small time at an age where we’re not emotionally mature.”

Parker met Elaine Hartle when she was 17 years old and connected with the THRU Project, a non-profit that supports San Antonio and surrounding area foster youth as they age out of the system.

It turned out to be a life-changing experience. Hartle asked Parker to mentor foster teens in a similar situation.

Parker finished high school, graduated from college and started working for the THRU Project.

“I didn’t quite see myself reaching this point in my life,” said Parker. “I thought it was going to end in a more negative note. I’m just grateful to have the opportunities that I have.”

Parker has since moved out of San Antonio for a new opportunity out of state, of her own free will and with her entire future ahead of her.

You can hear more from Robyn Parker and others about the foster care system by watching KSAT Explains: The Broken Foster Care System. The episode is featured below.

About the Authors:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.