Former Foster Kids Share What It’s Like Growing Up In A ‘Group Home’

Neglect is an awful thing, especially when it comes to children. Parents have a larger role than make sure a child has food and shelter. They play a critical role in a child's brain and behavioural development. 

In this article, people that have lived and grown up in orphanages/ home cares share the reality of their lives.

[Source can be found at the end of the article]

I've lived in group homes through the foster care system. It's a lot like an orphanage.

It was definitely different. I'm sure you could guess that children who needed to be taken away from their parents aren't the most well-developed or mentally sound kids. Most were functional day-to-day (there are other homes for those who aren't), but some wild things would happen. One boy would just masturbate in his bed with no warning or attempts at concealing it. My brother or I would have to go tell the adults.

Lots of time spent with each other as the only form of entertainment. We'd play lots of sports, lots of freeze tag, TV tag, etc. Many kids had anger problems, so the games would usually end in an argument or in rare cases a fight.

We would tell stories to pass the time. Kids would talk about their old schools, or their parents, or anything really. You'd sit and listen, and then chime in with one of your own. We all became really great storytellers, for good or for bad.

The adults were okay. They liked me and my siblings because we were relatively well-adjusted and well-behaved, but you could tell they were annoyed with some of the other kids. When they got really mad they'd have us clean the house as punishment, but no beating or abuse. The food was okay, we were always fed, bathed, and safe.

Overall, it had it's downsides but it was a fine place to spend a few years compared to some of the other stories that I've heard.


I spent a year in a place of safety. So basically an orphanage. Boys and girls were separated, so I didn't see my younger brother often. A very weird thing that still has an effect on me 17 years later is during meals, if you ate too fast, you were teased and mocked endlessly by the other kids. So you always had to time yourself to not finish first. Now I still eat super slowly.

I just remember it being very lonely. And like another user said, you weren't cared about as an individual.


I lived in a group home for awhile. It was interesting in some ways (especially being the only non "white" in the place) and I honestly enjoyed the camaraderie. Also, it was nice to always have three wholesome meals per day. They gave me a lot of time to study (I could sit at the group table pretty late into the night and study) On the downside, I did not like the drama that just inherently existed when you had people from tough backgrounds all together - they just tended to handle things poorly. I once got into a confrontation and had a glass decoration thrown at my head. It hit the person behind me and gashed that person's eyebrow open. Later, when that gashed person was asked what happened they said "Oh, [my name] punched me!" WHAT?! Oh well.


I lived at a children's shelter for about 6 months before being placed in a group home. There were several buildings in this campus for housing, we were separated by sex and age. There was a cafeteria, a school and a Dr office all in a loop around a grass field. I was older so there was several kids who latched on to me as a mother figure. It's weird to think about now. Kids would run up to tattle or to ask permission to go play while calling me mom, it seemed to comfort them to cobble together as a family. The only real thing to look forward to was every 2 weeks a group would come by with dogs and cats that we could hug and pet. Pipi the cat really got me through this ordeal. I ran into a guy I knew that was there, as an adult, we have been married 4 years, together 13.


Schedules. Everything was scheduled. Food was scheduled. You wanted saturday morning cartoons? They ran between 7:30-12:00. You were forced to eat breakfast between 8-10. Forced. You were not allowed to opt out. Best inhale chocolate cereal in the commercial. One bowl only.

Same with Saturday cleaning. "If you do the clean-up, you get allowance." And once one kid realized she was rubbish at clean-up (no one taught her, they only complained that she hand't done it right), she asked to forfeit her allowance. No, still forced to clean. When she refused, she was grounded. This was nowhere in the original clause.

School? Hah, forget it. Cheapest possible, with maybe the occasional library trip. Advanced placement? With no adults on your side, you'll be stuck doing things you already know. Forever.

No adults on your side. Ever. The collective is worth more than the individual. Nobody loves you. They love everyone! Not just you. Which means nobody cares about you as an individual. You are not special to anyone.

Sauce: Spent some time in a state-run home for children taken from their parents.


My sister and I were placed in an orphanage from the ages of 2-4 until we were adopted together. This orphanage was located in a remote area of Russia. We don't remember many details but the orphanage was organized, clean, and generally not too bad. The food was the same almost everyday (mainly porridge, cheese and crackers), and we were already handling chores such as laundry. There was plenty of play time and we took a lot of walks outside for exercise. Being adopted was the greatest thing that ever happened to us and every child wanted to go home with any adult that visited. We were very fortunate to be adopted together because it doesn't always happen with siblings. This was also back in the 90s when Russia allowed to US to adopt from their country. That was fortunate for us as well because we were able to become US citizens during that time.


I lived in a "group home" in Mississippi when I was a teenager (2001-2006). It was run by a pentecostal organization. Everything was structured according to the religious rules of the church. Honestly, it was kind of like living in a summer camp year round. They had dorms for boys and girls, a dining hall, a private school, a church (pentecostal), and a basketball court.

I grew up in a non-religious house so living in a strict, pentecostal (like in the documentary Jesus Camp) group home was very strange for me (forced church attendance, religious rules).

All things considered, it wasn't a bad experience, but I definitely would rather be with my family (as much as I dont like them sometimes) then be in a group home.


A foster home. Me and my older brother placed into care when I was 5, he was 6 1/2. I stayed in the system until 18, was shifted around a lot because of openings in other homes I guess. Due to moving every 4-6 months, I stopped making friends at schools and became withdrawn. Family only visited at birthday and Christmas, no phone calls - even though we all lived in the same city. 

I saw hundreds of kids over my childhood, most of them maladjusted, poor upbringing. Lots of gang kids. One girl from Iraq whose family fled from Saddam's regime, saw her father killed in front of her and would scream herself awake every night.

Ended up at a great place where I stayed for 10 years, settled well, did well at school and went on to be a contributing member of society, which is rare.

It was bad sometimes; not much money to do stuff. I had clothing bin clothes (discarded from people then donated to children in need).

But it was better than living with my family, by a long shot.


Lived in one after being separated from biological mom from ages 2-5. Very early so limited memories. I can very vividly remember being mistreated by the other kids as I was the only blonde haired blue eyed kid they'd ever seen. Made me quite introverted but I like it. I was so fortunate to have been adopted out by the foster care providers sister's step-daughter, who has been my mom now for 20 years. It's a little hard to imagine how it would be, especially as you get older. We need to do more to help foster kids, they have as much potential as anyone, and maybe even a little more with that fire burning in them.


I was an orphan in what was left of Russia/Soviet Union in the very early 90's.

My orphanage was called Maternity Home Number 8, if that gives you any idea of what it was like.

I was there from birth to about 4 years old, so I don't remember much very clearly, but I'll say this: One of the issues people have with adopting kids from Russia especially back then is they usually have serious issues with socialization, and that's mostly because infant/child care was very different there than it is in the US or most everywhere else.

Babies were not held, they were not played with. They were given food and changed and that was just about it.

So to this day I still have some issues but thankfully they've mostly been worked out. I live in the US now.


I lived in a orphanage in Russia from 1994-1998, adopted to the United States. Life in a Russian orphanage is rough, or was rough don't know much about now. During the time I lived there theft, abuse, bugs, starvation, fear, crime was daily routine. Girls that lived there were always looking for the next kid that may jump them at nights. Kids all fought for food, there was a huge shortage. Obviously everyone was afraid. So yeah…


I grew up in a children's home from age 6 to 18 with my twin sister and my younger brother because my dad was very sick and my mom was an alcoholic and a drug addict. I didn't have an abusive childhood, my dad just couldn't take care of me. There were always kids moving in and out and very few stayed as long as I did, so it was sometimes hard to build meaningful relationships. My houseparents stayed the whole time I was there which is good because having parental figures change constantly can be traumatic. My houseparent's taught me everything I know about how to succeed in life and I still consider them my parents. Everything was surprisingly normal as far as I can tell from how my other friends described their childhoods. I was in band in high school and had a job and a car to drive. I was free to do pretty much whatever I wanted with my time as long as I finished all of my homework and kept my grades up. 

After I graduated high school, the children's home paid for all of my college expenses including tuition, living expenses, and helped me buy my first car so that I would graduate debt free and start trying to build something for myself. Being put into that children's home is probably the greatest blessing I will ever receive and I'm thankful every day for it.


I lived in an orphanage for the first 14 months of my life, given up in Cherkassy, Ukraine by a mother that probably never wanted me. I'm fine now and I don't let it get to me, for the last 16 years I've had a wonderful Russian-American family. But one thing never goes away, and that's hunger and greed. Kids in those orphanages would tear each other apart for food and toys. It's a certain type of greed, where I don't want it, but I feel like I should.


I lived in a group home for almost a year in my early teens. The staff tried but even I could see they were burnt out.

I was there with a pretty bad group of girls. Your stuff would get stolen constantly, lockdowns happened at least once a day, group punishments, kids freaking out. It was chaos.

I remember one girl freaking out over Geri Halliwell leaving the Spice Girls. She threw herself down the stairs, screaming and smacking herself in the face. She got "escorted" back to her room and locked in. It was take out night and because of her flipping out, we didn't get any.

I didn't get any real help, I really ended up worse off.

The food was usually pretty good though.


I didn't grow up in an orphanage however I bounced around from shelters, group homes, respite care and residential treatment centers because my parents were abusive addicts & found themselves in trouble with CPS on top of all that I had mental health problems (depression & anxiety).

It was a very structured environment which I liked a lot because it was consistent. I always shared a room, the units were not co-ed. We had daily chores to do and group therapy. Most of the staff were pleasant and helpful and most of the residents were nice.

The hardest part about being in the system was education. Most of the places I was in had schools on site and the curriculum was not grade appropriate as far as public schooling went. I found myself really behind when I would be sent back home and tossed back into public school. Also residents could be restrained if they were a danger to themselves , another resident or staff member. There was nothing more unsettling laying in bed at night listening to one of my peers shouting "GET OFF ME I HATE YOU LEAVE ME ALONE. " It could go on for hours!! and occasionally having your stuff stolen by other people on the unit which sucked.

There was a mild dress code but no uniforms. You couldn't have makeup and were basically stuck in a building or campus type environment.


Everything was bitter in the one I was in. The elders treated us kids "12-16" like we were inmates in prison. The food was horrible. More often than not it was oatmeal, if anything, for breakfast. A sandwich for lunch and the same three things for dinner in rotation. Holidays came with fried chicken which was stolen by other kids who would beat you in your sleep if you were dumb enough to protest. There were rumors of sexual abuse and obvious physical abuse daily. I was sent to school in clothes that didn't fit and were old and well worn so I was picked on. I could go on and on about how that place messed with me mentally. Just know that not all are alike but there are those out there that profit off of taking in damaged children and treating them as bad, if not worse, then criminals and delinquents for the sole fact of not having a reliable parent.


Lived in a "crisis shelter" basically where kids go until they're placed in a foster home, for about 8 months. Staff didn't care about us except one lady who was an angel. I used to self harm a lot and was asked about it but nothing was ever done. I used to wet the bed even though I was 16, because of family abuse issues. I would be scolded and made to sleep in the soiled sheets. Boys and girls were separated but the boys used to bang on the bathroom wall because it went to our bedroom.

We didn't get any food for when we went to school so I was always hungry. I only had one pair of clothes to wear and to sleep in, they were often soiled because of the bed wetting. There was no shampoo or soap in the shower ever. I had to ride the bus to school and back but it was a three hour bus ride.

Like another user said, no one cared about you and you were completely alone. I spent Christmas and thanksgiving there and nothing special was done. It was hell.


For a few months, me and my brother was in a group home called Boys and Girls Village in Connecticut. It was clean, had activities, a gym, and I had my own room. It was okay, celebrated my birthday there and had a cake. I was 7.

We were bussed to my old school which was cool. They also had a gift room where you traded points (from chores) for stuff. Me and my brother saw each other everyday. We couldn't have video games though because 'not everyone has one.' I don't remember sharing being an option. Anyway solid 9/10. If you threw a tantrum they put you in the cool down room which was just a room filled with soft gym toys you could punch and throw around until you calmed down.

There were multiple buildings so maybe some kids that needed extra care were kept there because everyone I was with was pretty well adjusted. My aunt got us in the end.


I was placed in a group home at age 12 and aged out at 16, to live on my own. There were between 8 and 10 girls there at a time. I was the youngest and the smallest for a long time, and got the crap kicked out of me on a regular basis until I wasn't the youngest and smallest anymore. The staff did what they had to, no more no less, then went home. Most staff didn't last long, the few who did were typically cold and uncaring. School was optional, meals were optional, but locked down. If you wanted lunch, you ate at lunchtime, or you didn't eat until dinner. Missed dinner? Tough, wait until breakfast tomorrow. Better eat fast too, or your food may disappear off your plate, because seconds don't usually happen. I learned to shut up and do what I was told and duck when anything (fist or object) came flying my way. I made a point of befriending one of the biggest girls, and she ended up protecting me for a while, until she aged out, but I was bigger by then, and not the newest anymore. I learned to drink and tried a bunch of different drugs, but luckily never hurt myself in the process, and no addictions or problems with any of that.

Honestly, it sucked. It messed me up, made me nervous and anxious and defensive. But it also taught me that no one in the world gives a damn, not really, and you have to take of yourself. Never count on anyone else to take care of you, and then you won't be disappointed.


My sister and I were placed in an orphanage when I was 3 years old. My sister was 6, and we were only allowed to see eachother on visiting day, because our age difference placed us in different wings of the building.

Our rooms consisted of two rows of beds with headboards that had vertical bars on them. A nun slept in a smaller room separated by a door.

There was a large dining room with long tables where we would have spaghetti or boiled chicken. Probably other things, but that's what I remember. There was a poem for every etiquette mistake, but the one I always got was "elbows, elbows off the table, this is not a horse's stable."

I was really young and didn't understand what was going on, and would have nightmares that woke the other kids up. The nun would come out of her room and tell us to be quiet and go to sleep.

There was a small playground with swings and a Merry go round that was tall and pointed like a Christmas tree, with a bench that went round the bottom for seating.

I went back as an adult, when it was no longer an orphanage, but a church now. They gave me a tour, and told me that many people come back for closure. It turned out that I was pretty lucky in comparison, as there was some horrible abuse going on in there that I wasn't subjected to.

That being said, it really messed me up for a long time.


I've lived in many group homes. First one was when I was 7, around Christmas. I don't remember too much, but we would hang out around the mission. I went to a foster home after that, then back to my mom.

When I was about 12, I went back to that group home. It was very much the same as before. I then moved to another group home, when I was about to enter seventh grade. That place was a small house, with six girls in total. I got bullied quite a bit, and the grandson of the lady who ran the place made an advance on me, but since he was younger, nobody took it seriously.

At the end of eighth grade, I moved back to the first group home. I was in the teen unit after I turned 14, and there was a lot of drama all the time, since we were all teenage girls.

Before I entered ninth grade, I moved to a group home with 6 girls. We would have fun, going on outings, and we had a little computer lab. We would do chores, and cook at least once a week. We had study hall every school night, and it was a very homelike atmosphere.

Before tenth grade, I moved to a group home that was like a compound more than anything. There were 3 units for each level of care, the 12's and the 14's. There were 12 kids on my unit, Short Term 14, and on the unit I moved to, Long Term 14. It was like a boarding school, in a way, since all of my classes were on campus.

I briefly moved back to the group home I was in when I was in ninth grade, but I ended up going back to the other group home, and stayed there until I aged out in July of 2013.


In short, for me, it wasn't too bad. I was put in this group home owned by two women after my mother tried to commit suicide.They were great, and would let me talk to my grandmother for much longer than I was allowed to on phone. They even told my grandma that they wish they had more kids like me.

We had nice rooms, a game room, and 3 meals a day. Sometimes we would go out to do things as well.

The kids were the worst part though. One kid in there threatened to kill everyone. The sheriff came and escorted him out, he never came back.

Another young boy was kind of unpleasant to me. He said that I'd never be his or anyone's friend. I was 7, and really lonely, so it made me really sad. I didn't eat breakfast, and one of the women there asked me what was wrong, and I told them. He apologized, and was kind of better for the whole time. He did something else like the previous incident with tech-decks, when they were pretty popular.

During the span of the year, my mother and her boyfriend were facing charges for child endangerment and others. My grandma came over, and tried to get custody of me. Unfortunately, there happened to be an earthquake (thanks California) and my grandma didn't push for custody.

My grandma got a deal to take my mother back to my home state to not face charges. I wish she didn't do that, but it happened. I went home but forgot my baby blanket and stuffed animal, and nearly had a breakdown. The two women there shipped it back though. It really is something I greatly appreciate. An amazing gesture.

I don't really remember much further. I guess I tried to repress it. I really wish I could thank those two women though. I greatly respect people that dedicate themselves to other children to make their life better. They were amazing human beings.



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