Former Foster Youth Helps other Former Foster Youth for Holidays

Someone sent me this article on Tuesday and I felt it needed to be shared. It shows some of us who have survived the system and have gone on to make something of ourselves…never forget where we came from. This is just one example of how other foster foster youth can reach out to those still in care or have aged out to let them know others have been there done that and extend a hand to help.

I still remember the first holiday season after I aged out I was in college, a small one, and they closed the campus during the holiday break. Since I had nowhere to go and couldn’t spend the holidays on campus…I did what I had done during the summer between aging out and college opening in the fall; I spent it alone and on the streets praying I would survive the three weeks before campus opened once again.

If you take this time to read the story below…I hope you will reachout to someone who may find themselves with no family to share the holidays with! 

Former Lee County foster child helps for holiday
By JANINE ZEITLIN December 1, 2009

Mackenzie Ramsay has not spent Christmas at the same place since he aged out of foster care at 18.

Over the years, Ramsay, 23, has bounced to friends’ homes. He once grabbed some Chinese food with another ex-foster child.

“I recall my Christmases and the holiday season not being so joyful, more like on the depressing side,” he said. “… I’m not big on the holiday spirit, and that bothers me.”

This year, Ramsay, a Department of Children and Families processor who is also in Florida Gulf Coast University’s graduate social work program, is trying to organize an effort to enliven the holidays for former foster children.

He’d like to link 95 young adults who have aged out of foster care to people willing to donate household items or gift cards.
“If I could help out and get others to help out, it would make a difference in their lives and show them that there are people out there who still care.”

Erin Gillespie, a DCF spokeswoman working with Ramsay on the push, said child welfare officials eventually hope to plan a Christmas party with a tree and gift-giving time especially for young adults.

“We want to try to get them together,” she said. “Just to try to show them people care and they deserve Christmas just like anyone else.”
The state requires that children leave care at age 18, when many are still in high school. If they stay in school full time, they can receive a monthly stipend, on average from $1,130 to $1,256 that covers some living expenses.

“It’s not just they’re 18, they’re adults, they’ll be fine because it’s not like that,” Ramsay said.

At 18, Ramsay, then in Broward County, packed everything he owned in three trash bags and caught a bus to a friend’s home.

Taken from his parents as a baby, he’s been told little else other than that his mother was a drug addict.

He spent most of his life in state care and doesn’t know his birth family.
After staying in a few foster homes, he was adopted at age 4. His adoptive parents showed him papers reporting that abuse occurred in that time, but he couldn’t tell what or if it happened to him or other children.

Around 13 years old, he began running away, as he felt his parents favored other children in the home.

He recalls being grounded often in a locked room that had the windows screwed shut.

Their parental rights were terminated when he was 14, Ramsay said.
He returned to state care and stayed at a handful of group homes and foster homes. At 17, he dropped out of high school and earned his GED, the high school equivalence certificate.

Once he aged out, he spent more than a year couch-surfing and struggled without a support system.

His first two years included brushes with the law for stealing a puppy and fleeing law enforcers while he was out on bond.

At 20, Ramsay headed to a youth homeless shelter.

Through it, he knew he had to stay in school to get checks through the state. He wanted to succeed.

After moving to Fort Myers in 2007, he earned his bachelor’s degree in social work from FGCU.

“I know what these kids have gone through, and I know some of the injustices that they see,” he said.

The Children’s Home Society is inviting young adults to a party Thursday at Mike Greenwell’s Family Fun Park in Cape Coral, said Aimee McLaughlin, of the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida, which runs foster care locally.

But McLaughlin said mostly teens in care attend.

She said the network is providing two gifts at $20 apiece to about 45 young adults who have requested them and some of their children, but they’re in need of so much more.

“They don’t have a parent who gave them a care package,” she said. “At the holidays, presents are nice but these youth also need to make a home. It’s bringing on a whole new philosophy to home for the holidays.

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