Foster Talk w/Dr. John

Yesterday, July 14, 2014, I appeared as the guest for the Foster Talk with Dr. John radio show. He has made the link to the show available to me to share with others.

My portion of the hour long program includes my years in care then what has happened since those years.

I appreciated the invite and hope those who listen(ed) found it useful…especially youth in care today or those who have aged out and are struggling to overcome what difficulties they faced during their years in care.

Below is the link, if you feel you wish to contact me after listening please feel free to do so at larry@larrya.us

July 14: Larry Adams, foster care alumni, author, and advocate. http://www.blogtalkradio.com/drjohndegarmo/2014/07/14/foster-talk-with-dr-john

Thank you Dr. John for the invite!

Have a good day!

When Foster Care Goes Right

The entry below was not written by me. The other day I was looking at posts on Facebook. I was so moved by reading the post below that I asked the writer if I could share it on my blog as I felt it needed as wide as audience as possible. I am happy to sat she consented. Serena is a foster care alumni, a licensed social worker, Training Director at Oklahoma CASA Association and Self-employed at Independent Child Welfare Consultant & Training Specialist. Serena has taken all she experienced and learned while in foster care and has put it to use in helping others improve the foster care system…we need more like her! Here is her post:

One of the most memorable moments in my life occurred about 12-14years ago, now. I was telling my story to about 250 child welfare professionals from our state agency, private agencies, and the Courts in the county where I was now working in child welfare, so these people were my colleagues. This was also the exact same county where I’d grown up in foster care, so many of the people in that room had actually been involved with my own case, at one point or another. As I spoke, I had no idea how many people from my case were in that room and I definitely did not know that the Judge who had oversight over my case was in the room! As I told my story, I talked about the decisions that were made that continued to impact me, as an adult, and were also impacting my children. I talked about how the decisions made when I was 12 years old continued to play a huge role in my life. While I’ve never been super, uber angry with the system and, for the most part, recognize the huge opportunities that came my way to change my family tree, I will admit that some of these things continue to bug me.

And, then, the moment happened…

The Judge from my case, who I was now working with regularly, because I was working for our local CASA program, came up to the stage and took the microphone. He looked at me, and in front of all those 250 people, APOLOGIZED to me! He looked me dead in the eye and said “I’m sorry for the decisions we didn’t make for you. I’m sorry we didn’t do better for you. I’m sorry.”

As you can imagine, I was brought to tears and I felt a rush of emotion in that moment. Even though I was never angry at this person, or really angry at the system, I felt so incredibly honored that this man, whom I had admired my whole life because I knew the difficult decisions he was forced to make, would humble himself before me and apologize, in front of all our shared colleagues.

For all those social worker students, foster families, and other professionals who may be in this group: I promised myself, at that moment, that I would never take for granted the incredible responsibility of my position, as a social worker. I would never forget the power that was attached to my position, in terms of how much I could truly impact the life of another human being, in terms of how much I could personally impact entire family trees and future generations. The decisions we make TODAY do not stop impacting the children & families we serve when they leave our systems, when the cases close, or when they grow up. We impact EVERY SINGLE DAY of their lives, which means we MUST approach every single thing we do with care & attention to the responsibility we have. I encourage you to remember the levity of your positions, in every moment of your days, as well.

For those alums who are in this system, if you would allow me the chance to put on my social worker hat for a moment (knowing that I am your sister because I’ve lived this journey with you, in some small ways). I want to apologize to each of you, on behalf of all those people who made decisions over your lives at one point or another. I know not one single worker who will say the system is perfect or who will not admit we’ve made mistakes. We, typically, do the best we can, in the moment, but I know we don’t always get it right. Sometimes, we fail you miserably! For those failings, I am sorry – truly & deeply sorry.

I want you to know that we, as a system, are doing the best we can to improve how we do things. It’s slow coming and the changes are requiring a gigantic shift in the way we think about things, but I really believe we are learning. We are seeing more and more of our clients and former clients speak up to tell us the mistakes we’ve made and it is making a difference!

It will happen slowly, one worker at a time, but change is coming!!! I know because I have 10 students in my class and I’ve seen the change in each of them over the course of this semester. Yes, it’s only 10, but each of those 10 will share what they’ve learned with how many different people? These 10 will be better advocates for the children & families they serve. These 10 will inspire change in their co-workers and agencies!!! These 10 will spread the message!!!

You may read this post on Serena’s blog, as well as another moving entry:

http://whenfostercaregoesright.blogspot.com/2014/04/from-bottom-of-my-heart.html

http://whenfostercaregoesright.blogspot.com/2013/11/everything-i-needed-to-know-i-learned.html

Thank you for sharing yourself and your experiences Serena with others so we may learn and improve the lives of those in care. You are an example to us all!

What Foster Parents Wish Other People Knew

This is not something I have written. I read it on Facebook the the person who complied it sent me the link to it. It so presents many of the issues foster parents deal with and is so well written I thought it needed to be shared by as wide an audience as possible. It is my hope others will get as much out of this as I have. I am a foster care alumni having spent eighteen years in the system. I am sharing it here exactly as it appears:

Posted by Sharon Astyk on March 12, 2013

This essay is a little different than most of my stuff. It is the result of a collaborative discussion on a foster parenting list I’m a part of by a group of foster parents. I’ve paraphrased and borrowed and added some things of my own, but this is truly collaborative piece, and meant to be shared. I do NOT have to get credit for it. So if you’d like to circulate it, use it in a training, distribute it at foster-awareness day, hang it on the wall, run it somewhere else, give it out to prospective foster parents, whatever, go right ahead. This is a freebie to all! I care much more than people know this than that I get credit – and most of the credit goes to a lot of other wonderful people who want to remain anonymous, most of them wiser and more experienced than I.

1. We’re not Freakin’ Saints. We are doing this because it needs doing, we love kids, this is our thing. Some of us hope to expand our families this way, some of us do it for the pleasure of having laughing young voices around, some of us are pushed into it by the children of family or friends needing care, some of us grew up around formal or informal fostering – but all of us are doing it for our own reasons BECAUSE WE LOVE IT and/or LOVE THE KIDS and WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES – we get to have these great kids in our lives.

We hate being told we must be saints or angels, because we’re doing something really ordinary and normal – that is, taking care of kids in need. If some children showed up dirty and hungry and needing a safe place on your doorstep, you’d care for them too – we just signed up to be the doorstep they arrive at. The idea of sainthood makes it impossible for ordinary people to do this – and the truth is the world needs more ordinary, human foster parents. This also stinks because if we’re saints and angels, we can’t ever be jerks or human or need help, and that’s bad, because sometimes this is hard.

2. WATCH WHAT YOU SAY AROUND THE KIDS!!!!!! I can’t emphasize this enough, and everyone is continually stunned by the things people will ask in the hearing of children, from “Oh, is their Mom an addict?” or “Well, they aren’t your REAL kids are they” or “Are you going to adopt them?” or whatever. Not only is that stuff private, but it is HORRIBLE for the kids to hear people speculating about their families whom they love, or their future. Didn’t anyone ever explain to you that you never say anything bad about anyone’s mother (or father) EVER? Don’t assume you know what’s going on, and don’t ask personal questions – we can’t tell you anyway.

3. Don’t act surprised that they are nice, smart, loving, well-behaved kids. One of the corollaries of #1 is that there tends to be an implied assumption that foster kids are flawed – we must be saints because NO ONE ELSE would take these damaged, horrible kids. Well, kids in foster care have endured a lot of trauma, and sometimes that does come with behavioral challenges, but many of the brightest, nicest, best behaved, kindest and most loving children I’ve ever met are foster kids. They aren’t second best kids, they aren’t homicidal maniacs, and because while they are here they are MINE, they are the BEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, and yes, it does tick me off when you act surprised they are smart, sweet and loving.

4. Don’t hate on their parents. Especially don’t do it in front of the kids, but you aren’t on my side when you are talking trash either.

Nobody chooses to be born mentally ill. No one gets addicted to drugs on purpose. Nobody chooses to be born developmentally delayed, to never have lived in a stable family so you don’t know how to replicate it. Abusive and neglectful parents often love their kids and do the best they can, and a lot of them CAN do better if they get help and support, which is what part of this is about. Even if they can’t, it doesn’t make things better for you to rush to judgement.

It is much easier to think of birth parents as monsters, because then YOU could never be like THEM, but truly, birth parents are just people with big problems. Birth and Foster parents often work really hard to have positive relationships with each other, so it doesn’t help me to have you speculating about them.

5. The kids aren’t grateful to us, and it is nuts to expect them to be, or to feel lucky that they are with us. They were taken from everything they knew and had to give up parents, siblings, pets, extended family, neighborhood, toys, everything that was normal to them. No one asked them whether they wanted to come into care.

YOU have complex feelings and ambivalence about a lot of things, even if it seems like those things are good for you or for the best. Don’t assume our kids don’t have those feelings, or that moving into our home is happily-ever-after for them. Don’t tell them how lucky they are or how they should feel.

By the way, there is no point comparing my home to the one they grew up in. Both homes most likely have things the children like and dislike about them. The truth is if every kid only got the best home, Angelina and Brad would have all the children, and the rest of us would have none.

6. No, we’re not making any money on it. We don’t get paid – we get a portion of the child’s expenses reimbursed, and that money is only for the child and does NOT cover everything. I get about 56 cents an hour reimbursed, and I get annoyed when you imply I’m too stupid to realized I’d make tons more money flipping burgers.

Saying this in front of the kids also REALLY hurts them – all of a sudden, kids who are being loved and learning to trust worry that you are only doing this because of their pittance. So just shut up about the money already, and about the friend of a friend you know who kept the kids in cages and did it just for the money and made millions.

7. When you say “I could never do that” as if we’re heartless or insensitive, because we can/have to give the kids back to their parents or to extended family, it stings.
Letting kids go IS really hard, but someone has to do it. Not all kids in care come from irredeemable families. Not everyone in a birth family is bad – in fact, many kin and parents are heroic, making unimaginable sacrifices to get their families back together through impossible odds. Yes, it is hard to let kids we love go, and yes, we love them, and yes, it hurts like hell, but the reality is that because something is hard doesn’t make it bad, and you aren’t heartless if you can endure pain for the greater good of your children. You are just a regular old parent when you put your children’s interests ahead of your own.

8. No, they aren’t ours yet. And they won’t be on Thursday either, or next Friday, or the week after. Foster care adoption TAKES A LONG TIME. For the first year MINIMUM the goal is always for kids to return to their parents. It can take even longer than that. Even if we hope to adopt, things could change, and it is just like any long journey – it isn’t helpful to ask “Are we there yet” every five minutes.

9. Most kids will go home or to family, rather than being adopted. Most foster cases don’t go to adoption. Not every foster parent wants to adopt. And not every foster family that wants to adopt will be adopting/wants to adopt every kid.

It is NOT appropriate for you to raise the possibility of adoption just because you know they are a foster family. It is ESPECIALLY not appropriate for you to raise this issue in front of the kids. The kids may be going to home or to kin. It may not be an adoptive match. The family may not be able to adopt now. They may be foster-only. Not all older children want or choose to be adopted, and after a certain age, they are allowed to decide. Family building is private and none of everyone’s business. They’ll let you know when you need to know something.

10. If we’re struggling – and all of us struggle sometimes – it isn’t helpful to say we should just “give them back” or remind us we brought it on ourselves. ALL parents pretty much brought their situation on themselves whether they give birth or foster, but once you are a parent, you deal with what you’ve got no matter what. “I told you so” is never helpful. This is especially true when the kids have disabilities or when they go home. Yes, we knew that could happen. That doesn’t make it any easier.

11. Foster kids are not “fake kids,” and we’re not babysitters – they are all my “REAL kids.” Some of them may stay forever. Some of them may go and come back. Some of them may leave and we’ll never see them again. But that’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes people in YOUR life go away, too, and they don’t stop being an important part of your life or being loved and missed. How they come into my family or for how long is not the point. While they are here they are my children’s REAL brothers and sisters, my REAL sons and daughters. We love them entirely, treat them the way we do all our kids, and never, ever forget them when they leave. Don’t pretend the kids were never here. Let foster parents talk about the kids they miss. Don’t assume that kids are interchangeable – one baby is not the same as the next, and just because there will be more kids later doesn’t make it any easier now.

2. Fostering is HARD. Take how hard you think it will be and multiply it by 10, and you are beginning to get the idea. Exhausting, gutwrenching and stressful as heck. That said, it is also GREAT, and mostly utterly worth it. It is like Tom Hanks’ character in _League of Their Own_ says about baseball: “It is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

13. You don’t have to be a foster parent to HELP support kids and families in crisis. If you want to foster, GREAT – the world needs more foster families. But we also need OTHER kinds of help.

You can:

– . Treat foster parents with a new placement the way you would a family that had a baby – it is JUST as exhausting and stressful. If you can offer to cook dinner, help out with the other kids, or lend a hand in some way, it would be most welcome.

– . Offer up your children’s outgrown stuff to pass on – foster parents who do short-term fostering send a lot of stuff home with the kids, and often could use more. Alternatively, many communities have a foster care closet or donation center that would be grateful for your pass-downs in good condition.

– . Be an honorary grandparent, aunt or uncle. Kids need as many people in their lives as possible, and relationships that say “you are special.”

– . Become a respite provider, taking foster children for a week or a weekend so their parents can go away or take a break.

– . Offer to babysit. Foster parents have lives, plus they have to go to meetings and trainings, and could definitely use the help.

– . Be a big brother, sister or mentor to older foster kids. Preteens and Teens need help imagining a future for themselves – be that help.

– . Be an extra pair of hands when foster families go somewhere challenging – offer to come along to the amusement park, to church, to the playground. A big family or one with special needs may really appreciate just an extra adult or a mother’s helper along.

– . Support local anti-poverty programs with your time and money. These are the resources that will hopefully keep my kids fed and safe in their communities when they go home.

– . If you’ve got extra, someone else can probably use it. Lots of foster families don’t have a lot of spare money for activities – offering your old hockey equipment or the use of your swim membership is a wonderful gift.

– . Make programs for kids friendly to kids with disabilities and challenges. You may not have thought about how hard it is to bring a disabled or behaviorally challenged kid to Sunday school, the pool, the local kids movie night – but think about it now, and encourage inclusion.

– . Teach your children from the beginning to be welcoming, inclusive, kind and non-judgemental, Teach them the value of having friends from different neighborhoods, communities, cultures, races and levels of ability. Make it clear that bullying, unkindness and exclusion are NEVER EVER ok.

– . Welcome foster parents and their family into your community warmly, and ASK them what they need, and what you can do.

13. Reach out to families in your community that are struggling – maybe you can help so that the children don’t ever have to come into foster care, or to make it easier if they do. Some families really need a ride, a sitter, some emotional support, some connection to local resources. Lack of community ties is a HUGE risk factor for children coming into care, so make the attempt.

Blood Relative Finds Me After 51 Years Separation

Before I begin this story I should note I am 63 years old. The blood relative I am speaking of was born in 1962; making him only 51 years old and that’s the reason for the title being what it is.

I should also note that to protect his interest and others involved in this story I will not be sharing many last names or location information.

Here goes:

On the evening of June 5, 2013 I received the following E mail:

Hello, you don’t know me however we are related by blood. I am Michael , the biological son of Cora Frances Lee (passed away 16 April 2001 in Detroit Michigan), who was given up for adoption back in late 60’s. My brother was Gregory( passed away 29 August 2006 in Longwood, FL). I was given this information by a court appointed investigator from the Wayne County Family courts in Michigan. I have been looking at your website

I was wondering if you would have any other information on my birth mother and my brother? I currently live in Ohio. I know the investigator has been trying to reach you, however I have no ideal if he has had any luck. Well hope to hear from you. He had not reached me but did so a day after Michael’s first E mail.

My initial reaction was this is a scam and someone is trying to get personal information from me. My response I have to admit was extremely rude and blunt.

However, as the evening went on and thinking of the search for my birth family and how difficult it was I began having second thoughts on the response I had written earlier. I decided to write this person a second time:

Probaby came across as rude in my 1st reply as I was/am leary of these types of E mails considering all the crap on the internet. Considering I had to search for my birth family and spent years in foster care in various homes….I can relate to one’s searching. I don’t know why one would say we are blood related. If you are not pulling my leg you will have to tell me why as I don’t know the people you speak of unless they crossed my path in one of the foster homes I was in.

Will see if you write or if not then I know this note was not true.

Michael’s reply came within minutes:

Understand your response. I am doing this stuff a lot later in life, as I am now 51. I will forward the e-mail with information provided to me by the investigator from the court in Michigan. If I have sent this e-mail to the wrong person I am sorry. I am attempting to get as much information on my birth mother and brother a possible. Forwarded e-mail on it’s way.

No further E mails came that evening and I retired for the night not sure if in fact I would ever hear from this person again.

One of my early morning rituals is to check for E mails that may have come in overnight. There was one from Michael! I sat there is astinishment and repeating the words “Holy Crap” as I read it. The E mail contained all the information found by the court investigator in Michigan had found.

Due to the length I cannot put it in this blog. However, it contained his birthmother’s maiden name * death information, his brother’s birth/adopted name & death information. The most amazing information was including my birthmother,s name as well as her sisters and extensive information on my grand parents and great grand parents. There was other information but I won’t bore you with it.

Yes, “Holy Crap” Michael is a blood relative…he is a first cousin. I for quite awhile just sat there stunned and read the E mail a number of times.

I sent a quick E mail to Michael confirming all the information he had sent, welcomed him into my family and arranged for us to speak on the phone that evening after I returned from work out of town.

We spoke only for a short time later that evening…it was very personal and private and I will keep it that way. Needless to say I was thrilled to have been found by a first cousin as I had had no contact with blood relatives since the passing of my birth mother, birth father as well as my first cousin Dorothy in 2005. We agreed we would have a much longer phone conversation on Saturday.

Though I felt comfortable with all the information Michael shared I wanted just a bit of further information and called the nmuber of the court investigator the next morning. He just verified all the information and also told how he had found the information needed to confirm Michael and I were indeed blood related. He was also very happy Michael and I had made direct contact.

Now I am sure you are wondering how in fact is he a blood relative and first cousin….I won’t keep you wondering any longer…LOL!

My birth mother had two sisters; Doris and Frances. During the search for my birth mother I was very aware of them. It was through Doris that I actually made contact for the first time with my birth mother. I had also searched for Frances but was unbale to find any information past 1952. At the time she was in the state hospital due to adolecent behavior not suitable to my grand parents. No one had heard from her of her since she was released from the hospital in 1952.

It was through Michael I found out why I had not been able to find Frances nor could any other family member over the years. Frances, had purposely I believe, changed how she listed her name after the hospital release. I believe she did it to make sure no one from the family would ever be able to find her as she no longer wanted contact with her parents who had put her in the state hospital in the first place. Frances’s maiden name was Frances C. Adams and she changed it to Cora (found out the C was for Cora) F. Adams. At the time of her death it was Cora F. Lee.

Michael and his late brother Gregory were Cora’s (Frances)two sons…they both are first cousins! Because of the life she chose to live at some point both Michael and Gregory were taken from her and placed for adoption. Both were lucky to be adopted by very loving families and their first names were never changed. From the information on Cora’s probate records after her death it appears Gregory remained in contact with his birth mother and also left a clue for Michael if he ever attempted to search he or Cora. Since Cora has passed I won’t detail her lifestyle but to say it was not condusive for raising children.

I should note that now all three sisters; my birth mother Roberta and Aunts Doris, Frances (Cora) are now deceased. They all passed within a year time frame.

On Saturday Michael and I spent over an hour on the phone speaking as though 51 years had never separated us. He talked of his birth mother, his adopted family as well as hs family. He lives in Ohio, spent 20 years in the army & now works for the government. He is married & has 2 adult daughters. We shared what info we could on family though we both have unanswered questions. It was great talking with him. We will be staying in touch now through E mails; phone calls but hope in time for a get together probably here in Arizona. Though emotional at times it was a very good phone call!

Unfortunately there is also a sad part to this story. He had a brother ( by the same mother but different father) who she placed for adoption as well. He was 7 yrs olderthan Michael. He passed away in 2006 at age 50. Michael had hoped to find him but of course Gregory passed before he was able to do so. I feel the past several days has been episodes of “As the World Turns” in regards to Michael finding and reaching out to me. A promise I made to Michael when we spoke on the phone Saturday was that I would help him find the adoptive family of his birth brother if possible who had been adopted even though Gregory is deceased….he wanted to find out as much as he could about him. He had his adopted last name and where he had passed which was far more information than I had when I began my birth family search back in 1982.

After he & I talked yesterday I have done some research and hope we at least may have found some of his brother’s adoptive family members…..waiting for a phone call; also have some potential calls to make if that one falls through. Michael is blood; Gregory would have been blood as well….the least I can for Michael now is what I am doing & hope we are able to find the info he is hoping for.

By 7PM Sunday night, my time, I was speaking to Gregory’s older adopted brother Charles! We spent over an hour on the phone. His family is welcoming contact from Michael. They have memories of him and have always hoped he would reachout to them. Long but short story is that Michael & Cora use to visit Gregory’s adopted family in St. Louis, MO before the adoption was finalized so they knew him. Why they also did not adopt Michael is a very heart breaking story and one that totaly disgusts me!

Gregory was bi racial and the family that adopted him was African American. They had a very close relationship with Cora and knowing she could not truly care for Michael were very willing to adopt Michael. The state of Michigan would not allow it…a black family will not be allowed to raise a white child according to the state and ordered ( via a St. Louis, MO court) Cora to return to Michigan with Michael and had him placed in foster care until he was adopted in 1967. He was never to see Cora or his brother Gregory again! Michael spent roughly three years in foster care before his second teacher took an interest him and she and her husband began the process to adopt him. The family later moved to Oklahoma.

I was able to send Michael this E mail late Sunday evening:

Hello Mike~

Well today’s research has paid off! Yes, I called the person’s number I had a 2nd time this evening and YES it is a connection.

I will let them tell you much of what was told to me as I feel it should come from them. Except to tell you that Gregory never fogot about you and it is felt if he had lived he would have searched you out. It is also felt that on Coro’a probate record Michael Adams is in fact you to give you a clue if you searched.

Gregory’s adopted father (Johnnie) has passed away at 88 in 2008. Gregory’s adopted mother (Elizabeth) is 88 and still living. It is felt she would be thrilled to hear from you.

Gregory’s adopted brother (Charles) is the one I spoke to this evening. He very much remembered you and said you were such a beautiful baby ( it was in St. Louis that you & Gregory were together with rest of the family) and very much wants to reconnect with you. Either he or Elizabeth have photos of you as a baby, your birth mother (my Aunt) and of course have photos of Gregory.

Gregory was married and his wife brought a couple of children from a previous marriage into their marriage. I did not ask many questions on this as I figured I would leave that to you.

The person I spoke with….and he will look forwad to your phone call and gave me permission to give you the information you need to do so. I of course won’t share that information here.

There are still some family in Michigan, one in Decatur IL and also Elizabeth is in Fitzgerald, GA (could not find a phone# for her) where the family is originally from before going to Michigan.

I am very elated I have been able to do this for you and have come out with positive results. I wish Gregory were alive to see this day of you reconnecting with the family and so you could have time to share and make up for the time lost. At least though you will be able to reconnect with the family that would have also adopted you if allowed to do so and still wish to be a part of your life.

Let me know how things go!
Cousin Larry~

The next day I received an E mail from Gregory’s older adoptive brother Charles:

Larry,

I am thankful you called me last night. Needless to say, I was totally surprised to hear the subject, Michael’s search for Gregory.

I will be please to speak with Michael about our experiences with Gregory him. Greg is my very special and much loved and missed brother. My family to this day continually prayed for Michael’s well being and hoped to connect with him someday.

Although, Michael does not know us much after all these years, we are excited to hear of his well being and look forward to speaking with him and sharing photos and conversation. He should prepare to have at least two conversations. Initially he and I should speak and if it is acceptable to all my mother would like to talk with him. She is likely to be able to tell him more about Francis Cora (Kitty) Adams.

We always considered him as a member of our family whom we regrettably lost touch. He is a special man having multiple families and three mothers; birth mother (Cora), an early loving mother (Elizabeth) and the dear mother loved that raised him.

We have a few photo that we will gather, scan and send. However, this may take a few days as my mother is in GA and I am in FL. You can be certain we will honor the request ASAP. In the mean time I will see if I can send one or two sooner.

God bless,
Charles

Michael and I have shared a number of phone calls and E mails in the past two months. He has sent phots of himself, family, my Aunt Frances (Cora) with Gregory’s adopted mother Elizabeth and others….since full names are on each I cannot share them here at this time.

Michael and his wife and celebrating their wedding anniversary in September and are talking of flying to Las Vegas for five days. If this plan pans out I will also arrange to go to Las Vegas for at least a day or two so we will finaly be able to meet face to face…I truly hope it will work out! Then I will be able to share photos of us together.

Fifty-one years of separation but am thrilled that separation is now over. He may not be a brother but he is the closest I have to one!

What Foster Care Feels Like

Back in April a number of foster care alumni, at the request of the editor of Foster Focus Magazine, submitted our photos and a short statement about What Foster Care is Like and those were posted during National Foster Care Month in May. This month the magazine, due to the overwhelming positive respnse to the Facebook postings, has decided to print a gallery of those photos in their magazine as well as the article I wrote entitled “What Foster Care Feels Like.”

It is hoped that whether you are a foster care alumni yourself, a current foster care youth, a foster parent, social worker an advocate for reform or a foster care friendly person that the sharing of this article & gallery of photos will let you feel the true feelings of those who experienced foster care and impact you in a way that you will ask the question of “Why does it have to be this way?”

Here is the link to the magazine article and the photo gallery:

http://www.fosterfocusmag.com/whatcarefeelslike

Number of Youth in Foster Care by State

Below is a link to a map provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of youth in foster care by state. Fiscal Year 2011 is the last fiscal year data provided, data for 2012 wil be provided later this year.

Click on the HTTP code and the image will take a take a minute to load, then you will be able to go from state to state to see specific data. You may also want to compare this to the map provided yesterday to see what percentage of youth in care are eligable for adoption ( you will need to be able to do the necessary math to get percentage.

 

 <iframe width=”725″ height=”820″ src=”http://datacenter.kidscount.org/data/Map/6243-children-in-foster-care?loc=4&loct=2&clean=true#2/any/true/867/any/12987” />

Foster Youth Awaiting Adoption per State

Below is the most recent available data by state as to the number of foster youth who have been declared “legal orphans” by their state and awaiting adoption. Also over 26,000 youth will age out of care many of them without any family support or other support network.

adoption

May is National Foster Care Month…How WE Can Help!

Today across the nation there are over 400,000 children in foster care, over 20,00 of these youth are “legal orphans” awaiting adoption and 25,000 of these children will age out this year. During the month of May hundreds of community events are being planned across the country to help retain, recruit and support critically needed foster parents as well as provide support and advocacy for foster youth and assist children aging out of the system.

We can get involved now to Change a Life one child at a time or pay the cost of our failure later. According to the latest statistics for vulnerable children aging out of the system this is the price we are already paying today for our failure:

Only 54% earn a high school diploma
Only 10% of those go on to college
Only 2% of those obtain a Bachelor’s degree or higher
84% become parents prior to a marriage
51% will experience unemployment due to lack of skills
30% have no health insurance
25% will at one time be homeless
30% receive some type of public assistance
37% become incarcerated
Over 40% will become involved with drugs or are alcoholics

May is an opportune time to highlight the hundreds of ways individuals, churches, schools, libraries, scout troops, civic and social organizations, businesses and government can help support these children, youth and families. I hope it will encourage you to Change a Life by:

Sharing your hearts
Opening your homes as foster parents
Offering your help youth in foster care.
Declare May as “Foster Care Month”

How You May Participate in Foster Care Month:

Wear a “Blue Ribbon” during May in support of National Foster Care Month and help organize or attend a ribbon tying ceremony to advocate on behalf of children in foster care in your community or state.

Write your Governor and Mayor requesting they proclaim May as “Foster Care Month” in your state and community.

Organize a Candlelight Vigil in remembrance of those children who have been abused, neglected or died while in out of home care.

Collect “Teddy Bears” to donate to your local police and fire departments as well as social services departments to soothe children in a time a crisis.

Create “Love Packs” for children living in foster care homes, group homes or other institutional care. (IE: hygiene items, and age appropriate toys, school supplies, story books and a teddy bear)

Organize a drive to collect suitcases and duffel bags as many foster children are moved a number of times while in care, usually their possessions in black plastic garbage bags donate suitcases & duffel bags to foster care agencies so children might move with a little bit of dignity.

Conduct a drive for goods that will assist a youth aging out of the system to get started in life on their own. (IE: alarm clocks, bedding, tools, towels and basic house wares)

Have an “Event Day” for children in foster care (IE: Sports, Zoo, Picnic or Museum Day).

Conduct a creative writing/poster campaign for school children on the subject of Children in Foster Care.

Learn more about how policy, legislative and budget priorities affect children and youth in foster care. Learn the facts about foster care and gain a better understanding of the needs of those touched by foster care. Advocate for reform of the child welfare system so “in the best interest of the child” becomes a reality to the children and youth in care.

Have a “Capital Day” in your state to educate legislatures of the need to reform the child welfare system as many children should NOT be in care in the first place.

Conduct a letter writing campaign to the news media, government officials and others of the plight of children living without parents.

Organize a “Step Out for Kids Walkathon” to raise awareness and funds to assist those children and youth in care. Sometimes, tangible items can have tremendous impact on a young life. Foster youth often lack the funds to pay for an after-school computer class, musical instruments, sports participation or art supplies. Items that most of us would consider basics, such as school backpacks or supplies for a science fair entry, also may be out of reach. Cost of donating to nonprofits benefiting foster youth: A tax-deductible contribution to fit your budget.

Become a “Mentor” or “Tutor” to a child or youth in foster care. By becoming a mentor or tutor you will give foster youth reliable support from someone who holds high expectations for them and encourages them to see a better life for themselves. To mentor or tutor a foster youth not only benefits the recipient, but it is also one of the most rewarding endeavors in life, showing a young person that you care and can be relied upon, even through challenging times. Cost of mentoring or tutoring youth: An hour or two of your time each week. Research shows that children and youth with mentors earn higher grades and improve relationships with friends and families. They also have a better opportunity of success when they age out of the system.

Make a financial contribution to programs and agencies attempting to enrich the lives of children and youth in care.

Have a “Speakers Campaign” to make presentations to your faith-based congregation, civic group, school, PTA and other associations to educate and encourage your community to come together to find families and resources that help young people in foster care thrive.

Businesses have the ability to offer foster youth a life-changing opportunity as well. By hiring young people living in foster care and training them for successful careers, employers provide foster youth with a critical start toward a lifetime of self-sufficiency. Cost of offering and promoting jobs or internships for youth in foster care: Insignificant!

Most important of all, for those children who may not be able to remain with or return safely to their birth families, thousands are needed to open their homes and their hearts and become full-time foster or adoptive parents. The lasting commitment that results from creating a new home is one that can be pursued by couples, married or unmarried, single people and partners. Cost of creating a new, loving family by parenting abused, abandoned and neglected children: Priceless! Contact your local private or state child care agency to see how you may become a foster or adoptive parent.

Many people have asked me how they can become involved in making the foster care system a better one for the children and youth as well as for the foster parents since I was once a foster child. The snapshot of ideas above gives everyone an opportunity to do exactly that.

Yes, the ideas may take time, effort and funds, however, remember these children and youth are our future. As said early in this article; “We can Change a Life NOW one at a time or we will pay the price of their and our failure later.

It is up to US!

Give foster youth full access to Affordable Care Act

Anyone working with youth who may be aging out of care should be supportive on this issue as it greatly concerns health care being available to youth aging out of the system:
 
By REP. KAREN BASS and REP. JIM MCDERMOTT | 3/19/13 9:51 PM  EDT
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) serve as  co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.

This month marks the third anniversary since the Affordable Care Act was  signed into law by President Barack Obama. Despite the ongoing partisan rancor  surrounding the bill’s implementation, there is at least one provision Congress  should be able to find common ground around: making sure we protect the ability  of young adults to remain on their parents’ health care plans until they reach  age 26. Millions of young adults already are benefiting from this provision as  they work to get themselves established either through continuing their  educations or landing a job.

But when it comes to the thousands of foster youth who age out of the  foster-care system each year, the guarantee of affordable health insurance until  they are able to get on their feet with gainful employment could be in jeopardy  if the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid doesn’t take the broadest  interpretation of the law and ensure all states cover former foster youth until  age 26.

Almost 30,000 young people age out of foster care every year,  having never been adopted or reunified with their birth parents. The fact that  they age out is our failure as a government, and we should not compound that  problem by inadvertently denying them access to the same health care  opportunities as any other young adult would receive under the Affordable Care  Act.

Foster youth who age out are statistically more likely to experience  homelessness and incarceration and to lack health care. They face higher rates  of physical and mental health challenges, sometimes due in part to trauma early  in life. These facts make it all the more important that we guarantee all  eligible foster-care alumni access to quality health coverage.

Foster youth shouldn’t be treated any differently as they transition from the  foster-care system into adulthood — but if we aren’t careful, that’s exactly  what could happen.

The CMS proposed regulation requires states to enroll eligible foster youth  in Medicaid to age 26 only if they remain living in the state where they were in  foster care and enrolled in Medicaid. Although the draft regulation provides  states with the option of extending Medicaid to youth who move to their state,  it does not require it. That may leave foster youth in limbo when it comes to  their ability to access these benefits under the Affordable Care Act.

While CMS should be applauded for striving to achieve health parity for  foster youth, requiring those youth to remain living in the state where they  were in foster care presents an unnecessary burden on the backs of those already  carrying the heaviest load.

No residency requirement exists for the young people who receive health  coverage through their parents’ plans and no such requirement should exist for  foster youth. That was Congress’s intent, and we must do everything to ensure  this mission is carried out.

As written, this regulation could limit youth from seeking a variety of  opportunities, including a college education, a new job and living closer to  family members.

Especially in states within close proximity, such as the  Washington-Maryland-Virginia area, it is very likely that young foster care  alumni could move to nearby states. Former foster youth, many who have unique  physical and mental health needs, should not be forced to choose between health  care and moving to a new state with promising educational, economic or social  opportunity.

Already, allowing young adults to receive coverage through their parents’ plans to age 26 has allowed for more than 3 million young people to have health  care coverage while they pursue their dreams and get on their feet. Foster youth  deserve the same opportunities, particularly given all that they must overcome  in reaching their full potential.

To achieve true parity for foster youth, CMS will need to clarify the  congressional intent of this specific provision by issuing a final rule that  ensures states provide Medicaid benefits to age 26 for all eligible foster youth  residing within a state at any time, regardless of whether they grew up in that  state’s foster-care system or recently moved to the state.

Doing so gives foster youth the same flexibility with their health care  choices as any other young adult.

Congress and foster youth advocates should strongly urge the Department of  Health and Human Services to issue a final rule that protects foster youth and  provides them with the very same opportunities Congress intended to give all  young adults when it passed the Affordable Care Act.

 

 

After years of separation, 32-year-old man to be adopted

This story on CNN.COM impacted me quite a bit as I read it. I know how he felt over those years of separation from the family he wanted so much.

Unless you have experienced you do not know the impact such as his experience can impact you.

I was in care from the day of my birth until I aged out at 18. During those years I was moved 15 times. Three of those times was being returned to one particular family for periods of 6 months, 2 years & 4 1/2 years. This family attempted to adopt me each time I was placed with them. First they were denied because it felt their being in their 40s was too old. Second, their bio son & his wife attemoted to adopt but were denied because he was Catholic & she Lutheran ( was was with Cathoilic Chairities). The parents attemoted to then adopted me when placed with them for 4 plus years but were denied with no reason ever given. A few weeks later I was removed from them for the final time.

Despite being moved the final time I continued to stay in contact with them and always considered them Mom & Dad no matter what the system said. Dad died in 1975 and Mom in 1983.

I always yearned for a family I could call my own but it was never to be, however all these years later I still call them my Mom & Dad.

 

Here is the story from CNN.COM:

 

(CNN) — A boyhood wish is finally about to come true. But Maurice Griffin had to wait until he was a man for it to happen.

At age 32, the California man is about to be adopted.

“It has to happen,” Griffin said. “I didn’t fight for all those years for no reason.”

Adopting the burly, muscular, mohawk-sporting man is Lisa Godbold, his one-time foster mother.

“I just feel like this makes it official,” Godbold said. “And we don’t have to keep explaining it now.”

Good time

The story dates to the early 1980s, when Godbold and her husband saw Griffin at an orphanage near their Sacramento home. The smiling child seemed to fit perfectly with their family.

“Interracial relationships weren’t as common or accepted as they are today and the fact that Maurice was biracial. And we were a biracial family made us a great profile. So to speak,” Godbold said.

In addition, Griffin got along well with the couple’s other children, two boys younger than him.

“We were best friends,” Griffin said. “We’d run around, we did mischievous things and fun things. It was a good time.”

The good time lasted for years — until Griffin was 13 — and was two months away from being officially adopted by the family.

Family ripped apart

One day, foster care officials took Griffin away, saying he could not live with Godbold’s family anymore.

The whole issue came from a dispute over whether they could spank him, according to Godbold.

“You can’t spank foster children. Maurice very much wanted that,” Godbold said. “We wanted him to feel like the rest of our kids. And there was a difference of opinion with some of the (child welfare) supervisors.”

Godbold said she fought to keep Griffin and was told she could lose her biological children.

CNN contacted the state agency responsible for the case, but its officials would not comment because it’s still considered a juvenile case.

So she had to let go. And as time moved on Griffin, says he lost touch with what he felt was his only family.

“It was just an emptiness,” he said. “I couldn’t talk to anybody about it because nobody was there. I couldn’t call somebody; there was just a void in me.”

Searching for each other

Despite several obstacles, they never stopped searching for one another.

Godbold’s husband died in 1998. She remarried and changed her last name, and moved. Griffin bounced from one foster home to another, never finding what he lost.

“I didn’t let anybody get close to me again,” Griffin said, holding back tears. “I hurt a lot of people. It was a rough road.”

But six years ago, Godbold found Griffin on social media. They communicated online and then one day she called him.

“She said, ‘hey baby,’ and I said I got to call you back,” Griffin said, trying to explain how overwhelmed he was by the reunion.

And now the two are heading to a San Diego courtroom Friday, to put their family back together.

A juvenile court.

What is Foster Care Like?

Image

I don’t think I need say anymore!Click on photo to get the full picture and words.

 

Daughter finds biological mother a few days before Christmas

A heartwarming Christmas story for those who have searched for their birth family:

By: Tracy Frank, Fargo Forum December 25, 2012

Pam Miller, of Fargo, spent more than 30 years looking for her biological mother before she finally found her, three days before Christmas in 2010.

“It was truly a Christmas miracle,” said Laura Faye Bobo, Miller’s mother, who lives in Ohio.

Miller, now 52, endured a difficult childhood, even after her adoption at birth.

Her adoptive mother died when Miller was 5 years old.

When her adoptive father couldn’t take care of her, her adoptive mother’s sister took over custody until she was 15 years old, when Miller went into foster care until age 18.

As an adult, Miller spent countless hours in libraries looking at newspapers and phone books for any clues that might lead to her biological family.

All Miller knew was that her mother’s first name was Faye, her last name might have been something like Clemens, and she lived somewhere in Ohio.

She spent a lot of time calling people who would just hang up.

Eventually she stopped.

“I came to peace with myself that it probably would never happen,” Miller said. “I had spent years looking, and I just figured it would never happen, so I just moved on.”

But after she had a family of her own and her daughter, Presley, who is now 20, developed medical problems, Miller started looking again, this time needing information on her medical background in addition to wanting to find her parents.

She contacted the hospital in St. Louis where she’d been born and the courthouse to try to get the adoption records opened.

Both resulted in dead ends.

She started and stopped her search a few times over the years.

Then a couple of years ago when Miller was looking for Presley’s birth certificate, she came across a box of get well cards addressed to her first adoptive mother.

She started searching the cards, looking for clues and decided on a whim to type her first adoptive mother’s name into Google to see what popped up.

It was late on Dec. 21, 2010, when Miller came across a notice on adopteeconnect.com that said: “I am searching for my birth daughter, her name was Pamela Jean Hubbs, adoptive parents were John and Viola Hubbs of St. Louis, Missouri.”

It had been posted Oct. 20 of that year, the day after Miller’s 50th birthday.

“I was crying,” Miller said. “I was a wreck and didn’t know what to do.”

She immediately called her oldest daughter, who was at a friend’s house.

“I got a phone call from my mom and she was bawling,” Presley Wanner said. “My stomach just dropped.”

When Miller told her daughter that she had found her mother, Wanner started crying, too.

“I was just blown away,” Wanner said.

Miller clicked on the reply button on the notice and wrote: “My name is Pamela Jean Miller Hubbs. I know that I’m your daughter,” she said.

She added where she was born and her adoptive parents’ names and hit send.

“I was sick to my stomach,” she said. “I was nervous, excited, but apprehensive. I didn’t know what to think.”

Miller said she didn’t sleep all night, and when she checked her email at 6 the next morning, she had a message from her sister, Karen, whom she didn’t know existed until that moment.

Karen had posted the notice to help her mother find Miller.

“It was the most wonderful thing that happened,” Bobo said. “I had been trying to find her for about 50 years.”

Bobo, who said she never wanted to give her daughter up for adoption, said she wrote letters and never got answers back. She said the court told her they would release all of the adoption information when her daughter turned 18, but they never did.

“You don’t know how much I suffered in those 50 years,” Bobo said. “I cried all the time. I always cried on her birthday.”

“There was a piece of my heart that was missing,” Bobo said. “After we found her, I felt like my heart was back. I can’t really explain it. When I left St. Louis and left her there, I left a piece of my heart there. I’m very excited and happy that she’s in our lives. I didn’t think we could ever find her.”

It took Miller a little while before she could call her mom, she said.

“I don’t know why,” she said. “These people were like total strangers, but yet, they were my family.”

Miller and her sister emailed back and forth, exchanging information and family photos.

“It was like we’d always been sisters,” Miller said.

She learned she had seven siblings, and she flew to Ohio to meet them and her mom a few weeks later.

When she arrived, there was a huge party at her mother’s house with a big cake that read, “Welcome home.”

“I hugged her and we were crying,” Bobo said. “She just acted like she was at home. It was amazing. I just felt like I knew her.”

Miller stayed about a week, spending time getting to know the family she never knew she had.

Her mother also identified Miller’s father, a man with which Bobo was no longer in contact. Several months later, Miller started looking for him.

She found two listings for a Dewey White in Arkansas. She guessed which one was likely her father and called the number.

When a man answered, Miller asked if he had ever known a woman named Faye Cremeans.

“He said, ‘I most certainly did,’ ” Miller said.

She then told him she was his daughter.

“She said, well thank God, I found my father,” White said. “I didn’t know what to think.”

White said he was shocked, but he was happy. He knew he had a daughter somewhere, but never knew where to look or how to find her, he said.

Miller then visited him, too. They got along well and have a close relationship now, White said.

“I just love her a whole lot,” he said. “It seems like I’ve known her forever.”

Miller still keeps in close contact with both sides of her new-found family and says she feels a sense of peace.

“I have that feeling that I belong somewhere now,” she said.

Justice & Maybe Healing Can Begin

Last November when the Penn State Scandal first erupted I wrote a blog stating my feelings on the case, a link to it is below:

https://prairieguy.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/a-response-to-penn-state-scandal/

Last evening I attended the Arizona Diamondbacks vs Chicago baseball game. Because of this I did not hear the initial reports of the outcome of the Jerry Sandusky trial.

While driving home from the game I was listening to a news radio station; the story came on of the finding of guilty on 45 of 48 charges. I had to pull over to the side of the road as tears began to well up in my eyes. As I approached the side of the road the tears became a full blown cry.

I cried because it was a feeling that justice had finally became a reality for the 10 identified victims of this predator. The tears began with the joy that this happened but soon turned to tears of sorrow.

It took  courage far beyond what many would be able to muster to overcome fear and state before the world what happened to them and how it has affected their lives. I cried for the pain they had endured for so many years. I cried because people did not believe them when in some cases they told those whom they trusted about the abuse but it turned out it fell on deaf ears or an unwillingness to hear and believe. And folks wonder why it can take so many years before one comes forward.

I cried with hope that maybe, just maybe, healing may begin for those 10 young men as well as those who were unable to overcome their fears, shame, grief to come forward. Yes, I believe there are more victims out there. Sandusky did not begin his predatory actions when he began his non profit where he trolled for his potential prey; I believe he had been doing it for years!

Sandusky’s conviction is not the end of this case. Others still face trial for perjury, investigations are still going on as to who knew what and when. Other victims I believe because of the results of trial and the fact that 12 jurors believed the story of those who testified others will overcome their fears, shame and grief and come forward. A young man of 30 as well as Matt Sandusky, Sandusk’y adopted son whom he adopted after he aged out of the foster are system, came forward before the trial even ended.

It took me over 40 years after I was sexually abused, for which no one was ever held accountable, to overcome and finally share with others what happened to me. Though it is now over 50 years since it happened there are times, like last night, when all of it comes back to me as though it happened yesterday. It is something that will remain, to some degree, a part of me until my last breath.

It is my great hope and prayer that Sandusky’s conviction will be the start of the healing process for his victims. It is my hope that their community will not just move on to other things now that this trial is over but rather will be available to these young men & others as help is needed. The 8 men who testified took their fist steps in healing by overcoming fears and having that courage to testify against their predator but they will have many more miles to walk before they can say healing has happened.

Hopefully folks will realize total healing  never occurs; their experiences will always be a part of their lives but the healing will allow them to move forward with their lives allowing them to be in control rather than the experience controlling them. I know how my life has been all these years from the experience.

Because of his conviction Sandusky faces a minimum of 60 years in prison and a maximum of over 400 years. It means he will die in prison…rightfully where he belongs  and where he deserves to die! He will never be able to abuse child and steal their youth again!

Now I await others that need to be held accountable for their actions or lack thereof have there day to be held accountable.

Removing the Barriers to Higher Education for Homeless and Foster Youth

This is an article written by Sam Bracken on June 14, 20012 for the Huffington Post, Sam is a former foster youth. His story s inspiring how he overcame and how he is now helping other:

At this time of year we hear heartwarming stories about homeless kids who manage to graduate from college. Those kids are few and far between.

Although many states have programs in place where youth in foster care who graduate on time and with decent grades are supposed receive support to go on to college, fewer than 3 percent of kids who have been in foster care make it into college. Of those who do manage to get accepted into college, only about 3 percent successfully graduate with degrees.

I know firsthand many of the barriers homeless kids and youth from foster care face in education. I was one of those invisible kids — sexually abused, randomly beaten by my parents and stepsiblings. My role models were mobsters and motorcycle gang members in Las Vegas. I suffered every kind of abuse imaginable at the hands of those charged with keeping me safe. I was wrongly in special education classes until a caring teacher figured out when I was 13 that I just needed glasses.

By age 15, I was homeless. Worried about losing my spot on the football team, I kept my homelessness a secret from my high school and couch surfed. I juggled football and track practices, jobs and homework and graduated number 11 out of a class of 700 students.

Then a miracle happened.

I earned a full-ride football scholarship to Georgia Institute of Technology where Coach Bill Curry was in his first year as head coach. When I flew from Las Vegas to Atlanta, everything I owned fit in an orange duffel bag. Georgia Tech officials had no idea they were getting a homeless teen. Lucky for me, the university had instituted its “total person program,” which meant that athletes got training on every aspect of being a well-rounded individual.

Even with the support that came with being a student athlete, I often struggled. During every college break, I had to contend with the possibility of being homeless again and worry about where I would eat and sleep since the dorms and cafeteria were closed. I had no one to turn to pay for incidentals, and NCAA rules made it illegal for me to get help from alums. No one in my family had graduated from college, so being in school was like landing in a foreign country where I didn’t understand the language or the currency.

After a very successful freshman year on the field and in the classroom, I had what I was told were career-ending shoulder injuries. When I woke up from surgery, Coach Curry was by my bedside, and told me he didn’t care whether I played football again — my scholarship was safe. Then he said words I’ll never forget: “I care about you, Sam.”

That was the first time in my life I had ever felt loved. I re-earned a starting position on the team, and contributed to one of Georgia Tech’s most winning teams. When I hit an emotional wall my junior year stemming from my traumatic past, the coaching staff made sure I got professional help. Thanks to academic tutoring, I was on academic scholarships my last two years at Georgia Tech.

Despite the obstacles and thanks to many mentors, I graduated with honors.

More than 30 years later, I am saddened that shockingly little has changed in terms of helping our most vulnerable teens gain access to higher education. They face all kinds of barriers–from an outdated paper voucher system that allows them to take the ACT/SAT or waive college application fees to contending with homelessness during school breaks to being suspended from classes because the state fails to pay a tuition bill on time. Homeless teens and those in foster care rarely graduate on time from high school, because their high school transcripts get so fouled up from being moved so often.

Among youth in foster care nationally, fewer than 50 percent graduate high school. The rate among homeless teens hasn’t been measured, but I suspect it’s worse than that. Yet a recent survey showed that 90 percent of all jobs now require a high school diploma or GED.

I know all of this from working with kids as co-founder and national spokesperson of the Orange Duffel Bag Foundation (ODBF), a 501c3 nonprofit that does professional coaching on life plans with at-risk kids ages 12-24. I recently met a 15-year-old who has been through 39 placements, including 17 different foster homes. He’s an A student, but I can only imagine what his transcripts must look like. Another young man in Columbus, Ohio, found out he was one-half credit shy of graduating. His caseworker failed to submit his application in time for the full-ride he would have had at Ohio State University. His caseworker dropped him at the local men’s homeless shelter the day after he was supposed to graduate.

A staggering 70 percent of the people in our prisons report having been in foster care or homeless shelters as children. Ironically, the cost of incarcerating a youth for a year equals the amount it would take for a year of education at many of our best colleges and universities.

We cannot afford as a nation to overlook the educational needs of our most vulnerable young people. As part of the Atlanta-based Community Youth Opportunity Initiative designed to help youth in foster care, ODBF recently met with the leadership committee of the Georgia Board of Regents to present ideas about how to help break down the barriers that are currently preventing them from scaling the ivy walls. Most expressed shock and concern about the labyrinth these young people, who frequently don’t have one single caring adult to advocate for them, are expected to navigate.

Let’s tear down some walls and break the cycle of generational poverty that many of our young people face.

 

More FY 2010 Foster Care/Adoption Data

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
AFCARS data, U.S. Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children, Youth and Families

Because AFCARS data are being continuously updated and cleaned, the numbers reported here may differ from data reported elsewhere in report breakdown. These data reflect all AFCARS submissions by states received by June of 2011.

Adoptions  from foster care   52,340:
married couples…34953, 67%
unmarried couples…1140, 2%
single females…14465, 28%
single males…1392, 3%
10 states with highest # of adoptions from foster care:
CA 6044
TX 4709
FL 3385
MI 2597
PA 2365
NY 2205
AZ 2045
WA 1633
OK 1628
IN 1458
Waiting adoption end of FY 2010 107011:
10 states with highest # “legal orphans” & waiting for adoption:
CA 13396
TX 13111
NY 6603
MI 5236
FL 5011
IN 3092
WA 3089
OH 3011
OK 2872
IL 2844
MA 2758

NOTE: Children 16 years old and older whose parents’ parental  rights have been terminated and who have a goal of emancipation (aging out) have been  excluded from the report.

Data for FY 2011 will not be available until June 2012.

 

FY20010 Foster Care Data

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

AFCARS data, U.S. Children’s Bureau, Administration for Children, Youth and Families

(Based on data submitted by states as of June, 2011)

Children in foster care on September 30, 2010? 408,425

Children exiting foster care during FY 2010? 254,114 via:

Reunification with Parent(s) or Primary Caretaker(s)  51%  128,913

Living with Other Relative(s)  8%  20,423

Adoption  21%  52,340 ( roughly 2,500 fewer than in FY 2009)

Emancipation (Aged Out)  11%  27,854

Transfer to Another Agency  2%  5,114

Runaway (Lost track)  1%  1,504

Death of Child  0%  338

NOTE: Deaths are attributable to a variety of causes, including medical conditions, accidents, and homicide.

Children waiting to be adopted on September 30, 2010? 107,011

NOTES: Waiting children are identified as children who have a goal of adoption and/or whose parental rights have been terminated. Children 16 years old and older whose parents’ parental rights have been terminated and who have a goal of emancipation have been excluded from the estimate.

Fewer youth have been entering foster care the past few years. Youth aging out of care has been increasing. Adoptions have been fluctuating between 50,000-55,000 the past 5 years.

Data for FY 2011 will not be available until June 2012.

Second Book Available On Line…FREE!

After 2 yrs of procrastinating, 3 days of retyping manuscript & necessary html coding my 2nd book is now available on my web site. You can go to my main web site ofhttp://larrya.us/ and click on cover of 2nd book or go directly tohttp://larrya.us/book1.html Since they are no longer being published or available at on line stores here is where you can read both books for FREE -:)

My 1st book, “Lost Son” is my personal memior of years in foster care, search & discovery of my birth family, hope & healing.

This 2nd book, “Give Voice to the Voiceless & Forgotten is poetry, articles, stories & possible solutions to reforming CPS,foster care & adoption.

See why I am so passionate about foster care & adoption reform.

A Response to Penn State Scandal

It has taken me over a week since the Penn State scandal broke to attempt to bring my anger under control and attempt to present a reasoned response to it. I will not say some anger may find its way into this blog entry as it remains but I will attempt to keep it under control. I however cannot remain silent!

Adults, no matter the position they hold in society, are to protect our children. Despite what the Pennsylvania “mandate reporting law” states; the adults involved in this story did not do that. They, in a few situations, may have met the letter of the law but they failed in meeting their moral obligations.

I can speak on this subject matter due to my own personal experiences when I was a youth.

I was raped as a youth and had another sexual abuse situation attempted on me. I for years blamed myself for this. It took me over forty years to even share these experiences with anyone because I was ashamed.

When I wrote my first book about my experiences in foster care I didn’t want to share these experiences but knowing I wanted to be as truthful as possible in my writing they had to be shared, though not in graphic detail.

In my book “Lost Son” I shared the following two instances:

One

“The stability of four years came to sudden end in May, 1960, when I was abruptly removed from the Monshor’s home. I was placed in the Wayne County, Michigan Youth Detention Center. My crime: at age ten I was guilty of not having a family to claim me as their son nor a place to call home.

The Detention Center was to be my home until a new foster home was found. Here I was placed amongst youth offenders who were charged with a wide assortment of crimes. My bed, to start due to overcrowding, would be a thin mattress in the open area of the block.

I am the youngest boy on the block, as well as the smallest. Though I attempted to fight as best I could I was unable to overcome the attacks of older boys. I was repeatedly sexually assaulted.

One day after being assaulted and left naked in a cell, I felt my life was no longer worth living and attempted to hang myself with a belt. I was discovered before the act could be completed and placed in an isolation cell, where I would remain for two months.

Those responsible for the repeated rapes are never charged or held accountable in any manner.”

Two

“On the night of April 15, 1961, I was told to pack my paper bag, and that I would be leaving in the morning. All I could think of was, “Here we go again.”

The final insult of this foster home came on my final night there. Their son, seventeen at the time, came back on the porch late during the night. He nudged me roughly. When I opened my eyes, light was coming through the porch windows so I could see him. He was standing over me, exposing himself, close to my mouth saying, “Take care of this for me.” I remember kicking out at him and then wailing away at him. I hit him everywhere I possibly could creating noises as he crashed into things. All the time I was yelling to arouse the rest of the house.

Finally his Mother came out to see what was going on. I yelled out, with tears rolling down my face, “He tried to force himself on me sexually.” He called me a liar and said he was just checking on me.

His Mother believed him and not me. She said, “You are a rotten no good for nothing boy, a dirty little boy, a liar. No wonder no one wanted me as I wasn’t fit to have anyone to want me. Good thing you will soon be out of our house, you ungrateful little bastard.” At least she got the bastard part correct.

I sat there in stunned silence with what I heard, while crying now uncontrollably. Then I had my chance. I stood up and decked her son. I got a good hit in as I knocked out one of his front teeth…not bad for a scrawny eleven year old.

I was so ashamed of what had happened that  night that I did not share it with the social worker. I have not shared it with anyone as I have remained ashamed until now…forty plus years later.

I always felt I needed to keep it as my dark, dirty secret. As I thought of writing this chapter, I finally came to realize I was not the guilty party that night, I was the victim and thus could now forgive myself and let it go. I still obviously remember that woman’s final words to me. I still shudder when I think of this foster home.”

I share these situations to help you realize how a victim of sexual abuse may respond or not respond to it. The depth of the negative feelings one goes through as well as it may take years before they are able to share it with anyone.

I am sure victims of the Penn State situation could very much identify with what I felt when this happened to me.

In the case of the very graphic incident of 2002 in the football locker room showers it was not abuse that occurred…it was rape it was a felony crime! It was witnessed and yet the police were not called.

The Pennsylvania law does not mandate the average citizen report the above described case to be reported to authorities but rather it be reported up their immediate chain of command on the job. Only seventeen of the fifty states makes it a crime to not report abuse of a child to the authorities. This has to change!

Various officials at Penn Stated failed the youth that were sexually abused. In a few of the cases that have been detailed there were actual witnesses yet they failed to even attempt to stop the abuse they witnessed but only told their immediate superiors of the events.

How the victims must have felt knowing someone could have rescued them but did not!

I feel nothing but contempt for those witnesses who failed these youth!

Though the officials at Penn State are not required under their current laws to notify authorities when they were informed how could they not feel their moral obligation. How could they basically wipe their hands of the matter after they were informed feeling they had met the letter of the law and that was the end of it.

Abuse of a child is despicable! For one to not act to protect a child when they see abuse happening to a child is despicable! For those who are informed that child abuse has happened to not report it to proper authorities is despicable!

I can only hope and pray that those who were abused have or will soon find a way to heal, to realize it was not their fault but rather the fault of the one who abused them. It is my hope that their lives have not already been completely destroyed.

It is time that ALL fifty states pass a law to make it mandatory that whoever witnesses or has reasonable suspicion abuse is happening to a child MUST report it to law officials.  If the states will not do this then the federal government must. This law must be the same in all fifty states. We must protect our youth!!

We can never allow a situation such as Penn State, the Catholic Church (I am Catholic), to ever happen again!

A Note to Present/Former Foster Youth

The note below was shared on Facebook with the Foster Care Alumni of America Group. It was such an amazing, awesome, heartfelt article that I requested permission to reprint it here on my blog. It expresses so many of the thoughts and heartaches I experienced while in foster care but also shares the positive thought that one can make it no matter the obstacles they may have to over come.

by: Sunday Koffron

Bad stuff happens to good people, it is not fair but it is true. You deserved better than you got. From your original parents, from your workers and from the system, they let you down. That is not your fault. You did not make this mess you are currently sitting in, nope you didn’t. Where you are at is not the wrong place. It is exactly where they dropped you off and left you to your own devices. I would say you are exactly where you would be expected to be. But the truth is if you are not currently incarcerated, homeless, and pregnant by 20, or have lost custody of your own kids, you have already beaten the statistics. Got a job? You are a raging frigging success! I commend you, that is no small feat for folks like us.

Some of us have had it worse than others. Some of us go on to be academically successful; some have great success in their careers. Some of us beat all reasonable expectations by still being alive at 25. What I am saying baby, is that you are ok. I know you don’t believe me now but it is true.

Growing up I was lucky that I had staff and social workers who had come through the system, and they would tell me that I had the power over my own life, that things would get better and that I could do anything I put my mind to. *cough* *choke* *gag* oh yeah, *eye roll* they just didn’t understand what it was like to live in my head. They must not have been as damaged as I was in the first place. They must not have lost as much as I lost. They must not have had to resort to the kind of stuff I did to survive. They just didn’t get what it was like to be me. I just knew they were all wrong about me. I was not like them.

I cut, I drank (I blacked out), I fought, I slept around, I couch surfed for years and I did a lot of really stupid things. I hitch-hiked a crossed this country several time trying to find someplace – any place I belonged. I loved people, hurt people and I made many mistakes. It wasn’t pretty for a while, but I survived, I thrived. …And so will you my sweet, sensitive, wounded little sister (or brother). I can see those eyes rolling now. I know you think I am wrong. I don’t know what it was like to live in your head. I don’t know what it was like to live your life or feel your pain. And I don’t know exactly. But what I do know is that our lives, our pasts, and the amount of pain we have been able to withstand have left us uniquely qualified for survival. You won’t catch me shedding a single tear because the garage door open broke.

There is a lot left here for you to do. You are the voice for our younger foster kin, our little brothers and sisters who are stuck in a broken system, most of whom will find themselves out in the cold and on their own the day they turn 18, just like you and just like me. Your voice can help advocate for them. Your voice can help change that. You have a book to write, a song to sing, a meal to serve, a hand to hold or a billboard to paint. You are crazy strong and foster care gave you a crazy powerful will.

No, you didn’t make that mess, it’s not fair but I know you are capable of cleaning it up. I know you are fully capable of doing anything that you put your mind to. And I know that you have a lot of good left to do in this life. Keep on keeping on, I have high expectations for you.

 

Sen. John Kerry Introduces Reconnecting Youth To Prevent Homelessness Act

This week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) introduced the Reconnecting Youth to Prevent Homelessness Act to protect children in foster care from ending up on the streets. The bill features a section dedicated to protecting and providing support to LGBT youth.

In a statement, Kerry said preparing for and planning responses to youth homelessness is vital, especially when considering the amount of children that face this challenge.

“As a father, it’s a punch in the gut to imagine children living on the streets, but this year alone, one in fifty American kids will be homeless,” he said. “There are common sense reforms we can implement to help make things better.”

NPR reports that an astounding 40 percent of kids who age out of foster care will become homeless. And according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, out of the 2 million youths who experience homelessness each year, 1 in 5 identify as LGBT.

Because many LGBT youths find themselves homeless because of familial rejection, the bill would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create programs that are centered on “reducing dejecting behaviors and increasing supporting behaviors and understanding among families to improve the chances of LGBT youth remaining at home.”

The bill would also make sweeping changes throughout foster care programs, such as keeping kids in the system until they reach 21 years old and creating easier accessibility to funding and education resources.