Grace Tatom

Grace Tatom

I identify as a parent, as a student, and as a developing leader. I love to read, cook, dance and learn. Once I’m hooked on something, I just want to learn more about it. I’m not no professional dancer, but I love to just dance – Soca, Afro-Beats, and Spanish music.

I enjoy cooking for family and friends. For a while my favorite recipe was rasta pasta. Right now, it’s this chicken and shrimp spicy rigatoni with orange sauce and I add spinach sometimes. It just tastes amazing and I’ve also  been adding my famous ribs on the side. I know I want to take this interest and share it more with others. I follow a Mommy’s Recipe Group that welcomes all and it’s very heartwarming to see how others can connect around cooking and eating.

I share the things I love to do with my family and friends, but for me it’s also important to learn boundaries. To keep it at a place where it’ll come from genuineness and joy, I try to have boundaries so I won’t feel like I’m only putting the needs of other people first.

I’m most proud of my kids. They are just two blessings and I want to help support them to be the best that they can be. I am proud of the progress I am making mentally and emotionally, and as a student and a leader. I am proud of my self-growth, learning how to release shame. A lot of times I felt like I was either broken or like there was something wrong with me. So, to be proud in my voice, to be proud of who I am, and what I’m doing, I think that’s a radical step.

I take my experiences as lessons to make me wiser and not feel like I’m wounded, too traumatized, or like a burden. I’m special, I have power, I have a purpose. We all have purpose. We all have gifts.

I mainly grew up in Brooklyn until I was 10, and then,  when I got into foster care, I lived in Queens until I aged out.

I don’t really want to blame the system, but being in the system taught me survival habits that I have had to work really hard to unlearn: being disconnected, always thinking of myself as a burden. Looking back, I can just see how I kind of silenced myself and missed out on so many opportunities. But I was just so worried about stuff that wasn’t important.  I was  focused on being independent when I needed to be focused on actually healing.

It used to bother me alot, what others thought of me. It’s hard and gets very tiring when you constantly have to explain and defend yourself. I am learning to ask myself, “Am I doing what I want to do? Am I basing my worth on other people’s expectations, or am I really going for my expectations?”

My healing has been about learning self-awareness and acceptance.

Transitioning out of care was a process where I had to really go down deep under the internal chaos that I felt like I was going through. I automatically wanted to just disconnect and be alone. I was kind of ignoring what I didn’t have or what I needed help with.  There are just so many challenges and issues being thrown at you with every little step.

I thought that I had baggage that I had to lock away to give my children something better than what I’d had. I thought that healing was meant to be done alone. I thought I had to do everything myself and the world was against me. I learned how draining and exhausting that can be.

I realized healing has a lot to do with just having more compassion for myself, and to remember that I’m learning to be more fearless, and not to be so hard on myself, and continue being intentional with what I want.

I’m learning that I’m truly at my best when I’m connected with others, and to be connected with others I have to be connected with myself and aware of myself. I’m in the process of continuous healing. I’m more comfortable in my voice and more comfortable in following my passion, now.

I’m stepping away from feelings of shame and guilt, some of which had to do with being a foster kid. I am steadily understanding myself and taking control of my power. And when I do that, then I’m able to help inspire, share, and create, and I’ll be able to help others inspire and share and create. It’s just continuous work. I want to create change in the world and it starts with me, so I’ll just keep on putting in the work

There need to be changes in the Child Welfare System.

Youth should have access to support, assistance and resources. Young people should have the right to make choices in their transition. People who work in the child welfare system need to share their power with young people.

I want to see more policies and programs that provide resources and support that address root causes of why families get involved in the system to begin with. And it’s not going to be investigative, but something where it could be of shared power, and support and encouragement.

I want youth transitioning out of care to have the self-empowerment and the self-love that is needed so we can be unapologetically true to ourselves. To have a connected community where compassion, love, and care is used to help support others and share joy.