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Aging Out of the Foster Care System

To this day she remembers the sounds and roars of commercial airliners flying overhead. A sound so familiar that even now the experience of hearing such sounds produces tremendous anxiety. Mea Molnar was only seven years old when she entered Hillcrest Receiving Homes in San Diego, California. Even playing at the playground couldn’t suppress the pains of feeling broken and unwanted. She remembers that playground clearly. Overlooking the chain link fence on the outskirts, she could see vehicles zooming down the expressway. Next to an airport, airplanes arrived and departed while she stood on that playground wondering why she was there. 

Molnar, 38, is a Ministry & Leadership major at ORU, with a double minor in Christian Caregiving and Business in the hopes of giving back to the foster care community. 

Each night, Molnar would sleep in a huge room with 15 to 20 beds. She was seven at the time while her sister, two, was in another nursery room. The girls were completely separated. Each foster child would be given a set of clothing  every night from a clothing warehouse and body care products. 

“One of the things that I really remember are the nights. Falling asleep in bed just crying because I felt unloved and unwanted in a place that was very dark and dainty,” recalled Molnar. “The adults and staff that worked in this home were not allowed to give any type of personal affection to any of the kids. We felt a severe lack of nurturing; a severe lack of care.”

This was the commencement of a lot of her feelings of unworthiness. Living at Hillcrest was one of the earliest stages where Molnar felt like she had to fend for herself and protect herself. Each day she wondered what tomorrow brought, all while not having a blanket of personal security. 

“I recall constantly wanting to be with my mom, even though I knew my mom wasn’t a safe person,” said Molnar. 

Molnar’s mother was the youngest of nine in her family. At age 18, her and her other siblings each received $10,000 from their parents, Molnar’s grandparents. Molnar’s aunts and uncles used this money towards higher education. Meanwhile, her mother used this money to party. Molnar’s biological father had an affair with her mother which resulted in pregnancy later leading to the birth of Molnar. Her mother was only 19 when she had her; eventually going down a path of prostitution which led to the birth of her sister. 

By the age of five, Molnar recollects having gone through, “pretty much every abuse that’s possible.” This included verbal, mental, sexual and physical abuse. 

Throughout a dreadful time of a year and a half, Molnar and her environment were investigated by Child Protective Services. This eventually led to the separation of her from her mother at age seven.  She later endured a reunification process at the age nine of nine. 

“The [foster care system] allowed me to go back into an abusive setting at nine years old, I was abused all over again, and this time with greater harm than previously,” said Molnar. “I don’t believe that the foster care system really took the right protocols that they should have… [if it wasn’t for] their severe push of the reunification process, I would have never been sexually abused again; by the man that my mom is still with today.”

According to the National Foster Youth Institute, more than 23,000 children will age out of the U.S. foster care system every year. Molnar was no exception to those 23,000, after being placed back in the system at age 13, she eventually aged out at 18. 

“The statistics when I was in the foster system were that one out of three kids; within the first five years of leaving the system will either be incarcerated, homeless, on drugs, or dead,” said Molnar. 

“You have a greater chance of your own offspring being in the foster care system within their lifetime if you were in the foster care system at one point. This was a drive to make sure that my own children were never in the system.”

When Molnar aged out of the system, she was placed in a transitional home named David & Margaret Home. During this time, she became pregnant with her son and was kicked out of the home. One of the main rules in the house was that you were not allowed to become pregnant. This resulted in Molnar becoming homeless and alone on the streets. 

Her son, now 19, still lives with her till this day, as well as her daughter who is 15. 

“He is the gift that God used to change the trajectory of my life,” said Molnar. “When I was pregnant with my son, I had seriously contemplated an abortion…I was in an abortion clinic when I felt the Lord tell me to flee.”

Within the following weeks of her pregnancy, Molnar found herself on a greyhound bus to the upper peninsula of Michigan, where she eventually met her current husband four months later. She believes that her life would have been very different if she did not become pregnant with her son. 

“I believe that there are more children that should be in the foster care system who are not,” exclaimed Molnar. “Before the second time I was put in foster care, I had accumulated 16 charges of runaways. before [CPS] even thought of investigating the abusive situation I was in.”

Aside from lack of transitional living homes, Molnar believes that a huge flaw in the foster care system is their lack of investigation into a child’s wellbeing within a residential environment.

Even after her multiple attempts at running away as a child, police officers and CPS would continually return her to her home, not investigating her reasoning on her want to leave. There was no tipping point for CPS. Eventually her mother believed that Molnar was too much to handle, further surrendering her rights as her primary caregiver. 

“We need to start implementing transitional living homes, where we can be able to teach them fundamental things to live, like how to process a checking account or just be a functioning adult with life skills needed to succeed,” said Molnar. “On top of that, I think that as the church, we need to really start opening up the doors for them to know Christ…because without Christ, transformation can’t take place.”

Molnar’s goal after college is to open a residential home that aids foster children who have aged out of the system. In this transitional period, she wants the home to be a safe haven for these kids as they fully transition into a happy and healthy form of adulthood. Most transitional living homes only allow people to stay a year to a year and a half. Her goal as an owner of these homes, is to give these people as much time as they need to transition into adulthood, without a limit. 

“I think kicking them out at a year and a half, even though they are not ready, is not going to help them because they’re just going to fall right back on their face,” said Molnar.

Despite the trauma that Molnar went through in life, she always lives by the biblical scripture, Genesis 15:20 which says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” In reflection of this scripture, Molnar shares her story as a testimony to serve and help those who go through similar issues that she once went through. 

“The way my mindset is for these youth, is that I’m in it for life, until the day I die. That means I’m there for them if they need a safe place or need help— I’m basically their support for the rest of their life.”