Bethany lived through more foster homes than she could remember

  - Christopher Carter/staff photo
— image credit: Christopher Carter/staff photo

Bethany Garcia started in a family of 11 kids.

Eighteen years and more than 10 families later, Garcia finds herself again with 10 brothers and sisters.

All except one is now related to her by blood, and most will watch her graduate Saturday from Central Kitsap High School.

At 10 years old, Garcia, 18, left a troubled and abusive home in Iowa along with her 10 biological brothers and sisters. After two years with her grandparents, Garcia and her siblings were split up in groups and were sent to foster homes across the country.

She didn’t last long in most houses. Between disagreements, fighting and adoptions, she moved on to the next.

Beginning in elementary school, she began seeing the effects of living in foster care and a life on the move.

“I felt disconnected from everything I’ve ever really known,” she said.

Garcia said she hit her lowest point in 2007 while staying briefly with a family in Wisconsin.

School, she said, had always been a source of motivation and a reason to succeed. But with the reality of missing a real, permanent home, she began losing grip on her priorities.

“I didn’t have enough energy to focus on it,” she said. “School became less important.”

As her focus and energy drained, so did her will to live.

Garcia said she considered suicide more than once and was taking medication for depression.

“It was hard to do daily things, even getting up in the morning,” she said. “There was no point in being in this much pain.”

Through the tumultuous transitions, Garcia relied on her Christian background and religious friends. They were ultimately what kept her from pulling the trigger, she said, and without them she wouldn’t be preparing to walk across the stage with her cap and gown.

“I honestly don’t think I’d be alive right now,” she said.

When Garcia moved to Washington in November 2008, her outlook on life started to turn around. She and one of her sisters found solace in the home of Norma Barnet, a teen counselor and respected community member.

In less than a month, Garcia’s world was once again turned upside down.

Barnet died in December at the age of 60 from a heart attack.

Garcia had been bringing her grades up and taking challenging courses. After Barnet’s death though, she said she dropped her two Advanced Placement courses and did all she could to keep from failing her junior year as she dealt with finding a new home, again.

However, Garcia said she believes she has finally found a place to settle down, and just in time.

A week before her 18th birthday in November, Garcia and her sister finally were adopted.

With the absence of permanent parent figures, Garcia said she had to learn on her own lessons others take for granted. Now she’s preparing to study business next year at Seattle Pacific University.

“Until this year, there was nobody to say, ‘Hey, this might help you,’” she said, adding that she knew she wanted to graduate, but was unsure how to get there. “I knew I had to do it, I just didn’t know how,” she said.

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