Finding the Light in Foster Care

NOTE: As of Feb. 29, 2024, Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC) has rebranded to Landmarks for Families. Our nonprofit, community programs and residential services remain committed to cultivating thriving youth and families in this new chapter.

The below was written by a former CYDC resident and is an inspiring story about her time in foster care.

By Tanya Robinson 

I knew a girl once. She was twelve years old. Her face had this beautiful sheen, a glow if you will – the color of innocence. When the girl smiled her dimples proudly announced themselves, along with all the glory of her smile. Her voice was filled with hope and wonder. This girl’s dreams were simple. She wanted the newest Barbie dollhouse, along with the car, and pool, and all the other fixings that go along with the rosy-colored vision and view of life that most girls her age carried.

What the girl did not know, what she could not begin to fathom was that in two short years she would give birth to her first child at fourteen. There was no way for this girl to know that she would give birth a second time at sixteen to a little girl. The girl could not know that during this second pregnancy she would be faced with a choice to either go back to the home she’d always known or stay gone, never to return.  

I was sixteen years old when I entered the PAL (Preparation for Adult Living) program at Carolina Youth Development Center (CYDC) in the early 1990s. The staff there couldn’t have known that I had already made one of the hardest choices of my life prior to my arrival. Wanting my children to escape my past had meant placing them up for adoption. 

I decided that I could not go back home. That if I went back, I would never get out. Staying “home” for me meant I would be constricted in such a way that I would have to stay in a fight or flight mode. I would always be choosing to survive over thriving.

At CYDC, I was protected from the onslaught of voices that would have been doing their best to keep me surviving life, instead of learning how to thrive in it. Group home care played an integral part in my exponential growth as a girl, as a woman, as a human. 

I learned about finances there, this was a time when you had to have your checking account for six months before getting a debit card. The girls cooked once a week for each other. Red rice was apparently my dish of choice weekly and I can tell you it became unpopular very fast. I worked and bought my own clothing, I learned to do my own hair. I had to pay for summer school one year because math was not my friend. 

I came out of my experiences there believing that people, in general, are good people. Or at the very minimum, they want to be. We grow up doing the best we can, with what we are given. 

And what we are given varies in as much as we all have varying backgrounds. So, as the external voices did their best to “help” me, what I needed was the time and space to hear and listen to MY OWN voice. 

At CYDC I was able to do just that. 

There still is no question that my life benefited from living within the structure of a group home. They were the anchor that I did not know I really needed. 

One day, as I prepared to leave, I was standing outside, the sun was casting its light on me, adding to the sheen of my skin. I looked up into the sky. The day was sunny and bright, just like a picture in a book. Eyes closed I could feel the warmth on my face. I smiled and could feel my dimples add beauty to the contours of my face. 

The sun’s brightness was in me, a part of me and connected to my soul in a way that I would not even begin to understand until now.

What I did know at that time was that there was more to this life. I then silently talked to the sky. I said, “there has to be more to this life…there has to be something else. I know that you can hear me.”

And I was right. There was more to this life. It wasn’t always pretty, it certainly wasn’t easy and it definitely presented some challenges. But with the support, structure and the help of a community of caring individuals at CYDC, I found my way through the darkness and back to that brightness that always was a part of me.

Tanya Robinson is a writer, photographer, and budding empty nester. She loves sharing her communicating mavendom at

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CYDC is now Landmarks for Families!

For more than 230 years, we have guided neighbors toward stronger, hopeful futures and now we’re evolving too. We’re grateful to enter this new chapter with you. Welcome to Landmarks for Families!