Foster Care Must Extend Beyond Eighteen!

This is an article I found on the net from a writer in Alaska. I thought it was very well stated.

This problem is only going to get worse as 47 of 50 states are facing large budget deficits. When states face this issue the first things they look to cut are funds dealing with child welfare issues and education.
Cutting these needed services now will only results in higher costs later due to the problems many of these aged out youths face, homelessness, crime, inability to get or hold a job, etc.

Foster care should extend beyond 18

by: ELISE PATKOTAK

Published: April 13th, 2010 06:25 PM

Yet another study on the future of many children raised in the foster care system shows that their chances at success are so minimal as to be just this side of nonexistent.

The New York Times recently reported on a study done in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin showing six in 10 men who aged out of the foster care system had a criminal conviction by their mid-twenties. Three in four women in the same age group were receiving some form of public assistance, while struggling to raise children without a high school diploma. In a second group of the same age, one in five men had multiple criminal convictions, low education and incomes and often suffered from mental health issues and addictions.

The study does point out that children aging out of the foster care system who receive additional help with education grants, temporary housing and extended time in the system do better than their peers who don’t.

If you think about it for a moment, that makes eminent sense. How many of us, raised in good homes with stability, love and guidance, would have been successful if the day we turned 18 our parents had put our belongings next to the front door and told us it had been fun but now it was over?

A lot of fixes are being proposed on a national level to keep these kids from repeating their parents’ mistakes. Far too many children in foster care come from parents who were once themselves foster kids. Others end up in the revolving door of the criminal justice system. Either way, they continue to cost society.

I can’t imagine what I would have done if my parents had just suddenly walked away from me when I turned 18. I was, to be quite frank, a mess. But then, lots of teenagers are at that age. You are both an adult and a child. You want independence but you always want your key to the family house to be operational. You want to make your own decisions but you desperately want your mom and dad to tell you those decisions are good ones.

If there is a worse time to turn these kids loose, I don’t know what it could be.

The idea that a child becomes an adult at 18 is based on a world that existed maybe 100 years ago, but is now gone. It was a world in which 18 was considered a man and 16 was considered a woman and both were considered old enough to marry, have children and form their own household. It was a world in which a high school diploma was a luxury, not a necessity, and most boys at 18 went into the labor force at a blue collar job while their wives of 16 or 17 kept house and raised children. It was a world based on an agrarian model that no longer is relevant in most of America.

Today we have extended childhood well into the 20s and 30s. Cell phones alone have delayed the need for independent decision making by at least a decade. Yet we somehow expect foster kids to buck this trend and be the adults of yesteryear when they turn 18. Then we wonder why they fail.

Many foster kids have been so damaged by their birth parents that they will always struggle to succeed. But many just need the extended support and guidance of adults as they pick their way through the minefield of adolescence into adulthood.

Given current circumstances, we need to reconsider the age at which we assume adulthood will commence. A few more years of costs in the foster care system could save us a lifetime of costs in the criminal justice and welfare system.
Elise Patkotak is an Alaska writer and author of “Parallel Logic,” her memoir of 28 years in Barrow. Web site, www.elisepatkotak.com.

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A Loving Tribute to My Foster Mom for Mothers Day

This  weekend celebrate Mothers Day. Though we should celebrate mothers each and every day of the year we set aside one day each year to make special celebrations.

Much is made of Mothers Day for birth moms and adoptive moms but foster moms are usally forgotten in the media as they consider them temporary and not real moms.

I for one wish to change that perspective this year for at least one foster mom!

I entered foster care one the day of my birth as my birth mother had no way of raising me and placed me for adoption. I was never adopted. However I experienced 15 moves within the foster care system until I aged out at 18.

Three of those moves were to one particular family. I spent six months, 2 plus years and 4 plus years with this family between 1950 & 1960.

Though the system placed the word (foster) mom before her name I for the past 50 plus years have only called her MOM!

She did not give me birth but she never considered me anything but her son. She cared for me, nurtured me and loved me even if I was with her for a temporary basis.

I remember her walking with me throughout the night when I had battles with whooping cough. I could not be laid down as I could not breathe so she walked with me while I was able to sleep peacefully in her arms.

She would be the one to teach me to read spending time each evening reading with me until I could do it on my own.

She let me know, though the system said I was a failure, that I could be anything I wanted to be. So many times she would quietly sing that song of yesteryear, though she changed some words, of “I asked my mother what would I be.”

She taught me the importance of faith in my life and showed it by example in her own life.

I remember one Christmas when an extra stocking was hung from the fireplace for Christmas with the words SON on it. I asked her who that was for as she had only one son…he quick responce was simply…YOU!

I knew she loved me and I loved her.

During the 1950’s she and husband cared for 29 other foster youth in addition to myself. She treated each of us as her own sons or daughters. I was the last child she cared for.

She was able in the mid early 50’s to adopt two of the youth she cared for…daughters.

I found out many years later that she and Dad tried to adopt me twice but were turned down. One time it was because they in their 40s was considered being too old (1956). The second time was due to a difference in their faith from the Catholic Church. A few months after the second attempt I was removed from the home.

I was removed from this home for the third and final time 50 years ago. Though I would never return contact between us never ended.

I was sent to Boys Town, Nebraska in 1961. Letters betwwen us flowed. She made visits to me there though back then it was a long trip by bus from Detroit.

After graduating from Boys Town and going to college we continued writing and visited when I was able.

Mom passed away on Aril 23, 1983. I was unable to be there when she passed but found a way to be there for her funeral.

In the twenty-eight years since she passed I have seen each year that a floral arrangement has been placed on her grave for Mothers Day and her birthday. Whenever I am in Michigan I make it a point to visit her grave.

The foster care system never considered her my mom but I did and still do. She will always be my MOM!

I met my birth mother back in 1986. In the years after until her death in 2001 I never called her mom or mother but rather by her first name. To me the title of mom is earned and not just granted by giving birth.

Only one person earned the title of MOM in my life and it is to her I give this tribute, love and special wish for Mothers Day. To me she was everything a mother could ever have been to me.

Mom’s birth son still is alive living in Florida; when we talk on the phone we often remember the days so far now in the past.

I love you Mom, rest in peace and a very special Happy Mothers Day to you!

May this also serve as a tribute to the thousands of women each year who open their homes & hearts to serve as a foster mother!

Mom with Dad 1974

Couple Inspire 50 Adoptions in One Neighborhood

Gimundo: By Kathryn Hawkins. Posted on April 28 2010

In 1996, Jaci and Eric Hasemeyer already had three children, and had believed their family was complete. But when Jaci, a P.E. teacher at a Riverside, California elementary school, handed out coupons for a local skating rink one day, the response she received from a 5th grade boy made her think twice.

The boy, who was a foster child living in a group house, told Jaci that he didn’t need the coupon because he didn’t have anyone to take him skating.

“My heart just broke,” Jaci told Parents Magazine. “I couldn’t stop thinking that we had to do something to help kids like him.”

So Jaci and her family began to look into options, and discovered that there were hundreds of local children in need of a supportive family home. They applied to become a foster family, and in the years since, they’ve opened their home to more than 30 foster children—and have adopted nine of them.

“Our philosophy has always been that if a child is not returned to her parents or relatives or moved elsewhere by the court, then our home would be their final stop, their ‘forever home,’” said Jaci.

But the drive to provide a home to children in need didn’t stop in the Hasemeyer household. When the family’s friends and neighbors became aware of what the Hasemeyers were doing, they, too, were inspired to foster and adopt. Now, 20 families in the Hasemeyers’ neighborhood have adopted 50 children.

The Hasemeyers are committed to helping other families learn about fostering and adoption possibilities, and have dedicated their lives to the movement. Several years ago, Eric quit his job as a stockbroker and went back to school for a master’s in counseling. He now runs a center that serves as an adoption resource for both prospective parents and women who must give up their children.

And in 2006, the Hasemeyers’ oldest daughter, Krista, organized the Walk Your Talk Walk, a fundraising event to raise awareness of foster children. In the first year, the walk raised $1,500, but last year, it collected more than $30,000, and churches throughout Southern California modeled their own fundraisers after the event.

Now that the Hasemeyers have 12 children, it’s a pretty full house. But even though they’re not planning on any more adoptions, they are passionate about helping other families connect with children who need homes.

“Each evening when we look around the dinner table, we come face-to-face with the good that comes of adoption,” Jaci said. “Our kids have added so much to our family, and the simplest message is that everyone can make a difference in the life of a child.”

It Just Takes One: Foster Mother Mollie Jelks Raises 36 Foster Youth

A great story…good for a Mothers Day Memory:

HuffPost   |  Erica Liepmann
Posted: 05- 3-10 06:00 AM
 
After spending 22 years of her life working in mortgage banking, Mollie Jelks admits she never found the sense of fulfillment she longed for. When her Citibank office relocated to St. Louis, Jelks wasn’t willing to follow. Instead, she picked up a temp job at the Children’s Bureau, a Southern California organization working with abused and neglected children, pairing them with loving foster and adoptive parents. She reflects, “I didn’t know what it meant to be a foster parent, I just wanted to help kids.”

Inspired by the children she saw daily at Children’s Bureau, Jelks took in a foster child of her own. Jelks’ biological children were grown, with the youngest finishing her last two years of high school. Jelks filled out an application, and before she knew it, she had a rambunctious five-year-old under her care. Jelks recalls, “Her name was Precious, but she was the opposite.”

Despite Precious’ best attempts to thwart her guardian’s warmth, she soon found herself eager for her daily hugs from Jelks. A psychiatrist who worked with Precious was stunned at the difference. “What did you do to her? She’s been in the system for 18 months. We thought she’d never give or receive love.”

Jelks’ experience inspired her to keep going — over the last 16 years, she’s taken in 36 foster kids, many of whom came to her malnourished, scared by abuse or neglected by drug addicted parents. Four of the children that passed through Jelks’ doors never left — she adopted two boys and two girls.

To support her family, Jelks started a day care center on her property, based on the same principles she uses to raise her own children: “teaching love and sharing.” Jelks now employs three staff members, each committed to her vision of fostering a “home away from home” for the youngsters.

By far, her biggest challenge was Kendra, a young girl who had been bounced around to different homes countless times. After struggling with a schizophrenic mother, given up by her biological grandmother and being rejected after two years with an adopted family, Kendra was an emotionally scarred little girl — deemed “too difficult” by many that tried to care for her.

Frustratied by the circus that left Kendra feeling rejected and unloved, Jelks decided to give her a permanent home. Getting Kendra to come out of her shell, however, was another task altogether.

Through it all, Jelks didn’t give up hope, continuing to support Kendra, even when her actions seemed to go unnoticed or unappreciated. She explained to Kendra, “What’s your last name? Jelks. What’s my last name? Jelks. That means we’re family now.” It took nearly five and a half years, but slowly, Kendra began to open up, to trust Jelks and to accept that she could be loved.

Jelks speaks fondly of Children’s Bureau, the same organization through with she took in all of her foster and adopted children. She laughs, “I’m not biased, but they’re the best.”

The feeling, it seems, is mutual. “Mollie is an inspiration to all parents. She has a true love for children along with the warmth, kindness and patience it takes to make a difference in the lives of these special children. We are fortunate to have this extraordinary woman as part of our Children’s Bureau family,” said Lou Graham, Children’s Bureau’s director of foster care and adoption programs.

Now, rising to take care of her four young adopted children and oversee the day care center, Jelks believes “every morning is a joy.” Jelks is proud of her brood, speaking excitedly of each of their unique talents. Of young Tyler, she gushes “oh, he’s the lawyer.” Between track practice for 14-year-old Kendra, piano lessons for 12-year-old Amy, dance classes for nine-year-old Sean and basketball games for 11-year-old Tyler, Jelks has a busy schedule, helping all of her kids reach their potential.

Now in her 60s, Jelks is taking a step back from foster parenting, focusing on raising her adopted children. Jelks shares the knowledge she’s accumulated over her lifetime of parenting as a mentor to other foster parents.

When she encountered a foster mother struggling to get through to a girl, who, like Kendra, was introverted, she knew how to help. The mother had hoped to solve her own unhappiness by caring for the girl, but the struggle was making her even more unhappy. Jelks advised her, you’re “putting too much on the child. Find happiness with yourself, so you can take demands off the child.”

When the mother returned to Jelks, months later, to announce the pair had had a breakthrough and were finally getting to know each other and develop a loving relationship. “To hear that victory, that’s the ultimate goal of mentoring.”