Miracle at 100 Years

On a wintry day in Omaha, Nebraska a young priest had a dream. He wanted to start a place that would provide a home for young boys in need.

Fr. Edward Joseph Flanagan founded world renowned Boys Town, Nebraska on December 12, 1917.

One hundred years later that dream continues to live on!

I doubt seriously he would have imagined what he began that day would go on to provide a home, education, sports and so much more for thousands of young men; and years later young women.

What began as a dream which for years struggled day to day to survive financially went forth. It was because of his perseverance and faith that God would provide that kept him going forward….never doubting that somehow things would workout.

With the help of a few priests, nuns and a few others he moved from a building that limited him to care but for a few to what was once farm land to become a village called Boys Town.

Thousands have been a part of the history of Boys Town. Today many of the young men/women who once called Boys Town home are now priests, lawyers, doctors, teachers, politicians, barbers, printers…etc. Each having gained a second chance at life and making the most of what they obtained.

They learned the three priorities of life….faith, country and family!

Hundreds of young men/women have joined our military. Boys Town probably has the most names on a Memorial Wall for those who gave their all in service to our country of any small village in the country as they have served in every war beginning in WWll to day. Each are honored and revered by Boys Town alumni and staff as heroes!

Many for years have been doing what has become fashionable today…paying it forward. It took many donations for each to call the place of Boys Town home for brief time or many years…they have spent years in their own way giving back to the communities they now call home in thanksgiving.

Fr. Flanagan has been declared a “Servant of God” and now is being investigated for miracles to see whether the Catholic Church will one day declare him a Saint.

It is unfortunate the church looks for physical healing miracles before declaring one a saint. For I know thousands of life changing miracles that would not have happened if a young priest did not have a dream 100 years ago.

I know it because I am one of those miracles! It was my physical home from 1961-1968. In my heart it remains my home still today.

Fr. Flanagan passed away suddenly May 15, 1948 while in Germany for President Harry S. Truman helping youth after WWll. His miracle lives on and he rests in peace at his beloved Boys Town. Four successors and many staff over the years have worked to see his work continues.

Boys Town celebrates the 100th anniversary of its founding! My wish that 100 years from now they will celebrate the 200th one!

Thank you Fr. Flanagan and Boys Town for all you have done for the thousands of us youth in the past and for all you will continue to do in the years ahead!

Lawrence Adams
Proud Graduate of Boys Town Class of 1968

Family Persecuted & Survived or Killed During the Horror of the Nazis

Before I remember and honor family members who suffered & survived, were murdered or successfully fled elsewhere I need to give a short background as to why at age 65 I am just learning of this horror.

I was born of an unwed mother in 1950 and placed for adoption; though never adopted. I went through the first 36 years of life not knowing who was my was or any of my heritage. I would find my birth mother in 1986 and learn I was Polish and in 1990 I would find my birth father and learn on his side I was German.

I began tracing back the history, etc of my maternal side and spent over the next 25 years being able to trace back to my maternal great, great grandparents in the mid 1800’s in Poland. Though much of the family who were born in the USA in the late 1800’s had passed I was able to meet and develop relationships with many cousins. I hit a brick wall in tracing back about two years ago and decided at least for now to lay things aside.

My birth mother and father have since passed.

For unexplainable reasons I throughout the years never had an interest in doing this on my father’s side.

I early April of this year, again for unexplainable reason I pulled what little information I had on my father’s side and decided it was time!

I of course knew since 1990 that his family was German. Through various record searches I learned of names his parents. It was through his father’s name I learned of his grandparents: Albert Marx & Fannie Jakoby Marx who had immigrated from Germany in the late 1800‘s.

I then discovered something I had not expected….they were Jewish and that line went back many generations. I was raised Catholic though I cannot say I have been a practicing one for several years but do have solid beliefs. I wanted to know more of the Jewish faith, their traditions and of course go back further in the family line. Because the mother of a child must before the child is born be Jewish for the child to be declared Jewish I cannot do so as my grandfather though Jewish married a Gentile who did not convert before he was born or even after. I may not be Jewish but a Jewish line runs deeply through my veins!

On one great grandmother’s side I found her parents were Nathan Jakoby of Barweiler German where he was born, married, lived , died in 1880 and is buried and his wife Rosina Josephina Franck of Essweiler Germany then Wallerfangen where she moved after Nathan passed and where she passed in 1893 and is buried in Dillingen. All but one of their children immigrated to the USA except Leopold who passed in Barweiler at the age of 16 in 1878. I have traced each of the children and have most of their records.

This finally brings me to the events of the past few days and the reason for this special blog.
After waiting for information from Germany over the summer and early fall I did get bits of information from a friend in Germany but just Sunday I received pages involving my family line from the Civil Registry of Essweiler.

From that listing of names, births, marriages, deaths (over 50 names) were obtained. I also received a link to the Municipality of Essweiler web site and the initial shock came. I of course grew up learning of the horrors of Nazism and the Holocaust but never could have imagined it had affected anyone in my family….I was wrong, very wrong!

I shared this information in a blog on Monday so if someone might be looking also for names I have they could find them and I share the link to that blog here once again:

https://prairieguy.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/jewish-german-heritage-i-didnt-know-i-had/

The Franck family had lived in Essweiler at least from the mid 1700’s. They were homeowners who lived in the same house from my 4x great grandparents and passed to the 3x great grandparents….many children were born in that house identified only as #68 City Center. (4x great grandparents were Joel Franck/Eva Frankel & 3x great grandparents were Joseph Franck/Rosina Wolf).

One of the children Joseph/Rosina had was Barbara Franck…this is in addition to my 2x great grandmother and 4 other children.

Barbara Franck married on 05/25/1874 married Lazarus Jakob in Essweiler and had 7 children: Johanna, Hedwig, Rosalia, Ida, Flora, Paulina and a male not named who died at birth. Barbara was Lazarus’s 2nd wife and his 1st wife Susanna (Barbara’s sister) had passed during the birth of her 3rd child who also passed in 1873. Susanna also had 2 children prior but who had passed within months of their birth. Thus no previous children came into Lazarus’s/Barbara’s marriage.

This Tuesday night I found the two records I hoped to never find and I am sure will impact me in many ways for the rest of my days….my family was very personally impacted by the Holocaust.

The two records: Hedwig Jakob and Johanna Jakob Herze.

Hedwig was born in Essweiler on 01/24/1882. She would marry Silvian Geissiman 10/02/1912 in Kaiserslautern, Germany, b: 02/08/1882 in Westhoven, daughter of Issak Gerissman & Babette Picard. I have found no information as yet of her husband or if they had any children.

1. Hedwig was deported to Gurs Camp in France in 1940 then Auschwitz in 1942 where she met her death in the gas chambers of Hitler on 08/12/1942. There is no record for her on Yad Vashem but I will be submitting testimony on behalf of the family and I want her remembered by the world after I am gone.

2. Johanna Jakob Herze was born to Lazarus Jakob and Barbara Franck in Essweiler on 09/15/1874. She would marry Hugo Herze born on July 29 1870 Randerath, a district of Heinsberg, in North Rhine-Westphalia in Essweiler on 10/24/1894. They would initially live in Essweiler where 3 children were born then move to Kasiserlautern to 71 Lutpoldstrasse in 1902 now known as 71 Rudolf-Breitscheid Strasse…you will see the importance of this address later.

Children:

Leo, Adolph, Arthur, ,Jacob, Wilhelm, Hedwig (but called Heidi) and Erich…Leo died of natural causes in 1914)

Johanna was deported to the Gurs Camp in France, then transport to Camp Noe in October of 1940, as were most Jews in the town, where she was killed in 1943.

At this point I was in such pain learning of this and yes tears were flowing. I thought I would give up my research for the night but then I realized I had to go on. The pain and heartache would only become worse as I processed.

3. I learned her husband Hugo was also deported to the Gurs Camp then to Camp Noe…. and was killed there on February 4, 1943…Johanna was killed on March 5, 1943. They were 72 and 69 respectively when killed.

Son Jacob married Lydia Horn in 1931 in Essweiler then moved to Kaiserlautern and had 4 children: Hedwig, Hannalore, Anna and Ruth. Anna died of natural causes in 1939 at 3 ½ years old.

The entire family was deported to Camp Gurs in October 22, 1940.

4. Jacob was killed on April 14, 1941
5. Hannalore was killed in October 1941.

Lydia would survived and while doing forced labor she escaped and in 1945 was living in Hamburg, Germany but then returned to Kaiserslautern where she died in 1962 at age 60.

Hedwig survived the war and was rescued by OSE and the Quakers eventually also returning to Kaiserslautern where she passed…am researching for the year.

Ruth also survived but did not return home, she lived the remainder of her life in various locations in France as a pediatric nurse. She never married and died in 2008 at 89 years of age.

5. Johanna’s son Adolph born in 1896 married Rosa Lazar and lived in Reydt, Germany but fled to Brussels, Belgium. Adolph died in the ghettos of Riga. Adolph was shot and killed by the Nazis when it was ordered to clean out the Riga ghetto. Rosa eventually immigrated to the New York USA to live with her brother Solomon in Queens.

Hugo, Johannna, Hannalore, Jacob, Lydia, Adolph are listed in Yad Vashem but I will submit testimony for each of them. On behalf of the family and so their lives will never be forgotten.

Johanna’s 3 other sisters had left Germany back in the early 1930’s before Hitler came to power and immigrated to the United States and I need to do further research.

Johanna’s other children did survive the war:

Arthur died in 1940 in a hospital in Cologne, Germany

Wilhelm initially fled first to Paris, then Paraguay where he died in 1986.

Hedwig (Heidi) returned to Kaiserslautern where she died.

Erich fled to Sweden where he lived the remainder of his life. He did return for visits to Kaiserslautern but never wanted to resettle there. I need to research further ass I know he did marry but have no further information.

I have many other family names to search, some males that should be easy to check Yad Vesham whereas the women may be difficult as I don’t know if they ever married. I pray I won’t find anymore horror as this journey uncovered but I am prepared for it.

Besides submitting testimony for each of those that died to Yad Vesham I will also make memorials at FindaGrave for those who passed in Auschwitz, Noe and Gurs as I know these are there final resting places.

There is a custom called STOLPERSTEINE that began after the was as a way to remember those lost during the Holocaust.

A human being is forgotten until his name is not forgotten

The words from the Talmud are the driving force for the artist Gunter Demnig, with memorial plaques to the victims of the Nazi regime in Europe to for the world to remember. Under this slogan were in June 2014 Gunter Demnig outside the house Rudolf-Breitscheid-Strasse 71, where the Herze family last lived freely all together, placed the seven stumbling blocks for Hugo, Johanna, Jacob, Lydia, Hedwig, Ruth and Hannelore.

d-h-e_PTX17884_O1_650

A closer view so one can see the names:

d-h-e_PTX17874_Part_650

Though all but Hedwig Jakob are listed in Yad Vashem only one actual testimony has been received which is for Adolph Herze:

10 (2)

I would love one day, and dream about it, to visit the land of my paternal ancestors especially Essweiler, Barweiler, Kaisterslautern. To walk where they walked, lived and also where some are buried in the Jewish cemetery in Hintzinger. And to personally go to honor those who suffered so much even if they did in fact survive as I know their lives were never the same and mine will not be either. But being now 65 and limited income that will never be possible…but I can dream.

For 65 years I did not know if the Jewish heritage I came from. I did not know the horrors some of my family endured, even death, for just being who they were. I knew of the Holocaust but now I know it personally. The heartache I felt Sunday night when I found the initial record then the succeeding ones on Tuesday night into those early hours of Wednesday may subside as time passes but it will never be healed. I have had to stop a few times as I writing it as the tears so easily came. I will never forget and hope that even after I am gone people will see the Stolpersteine created to honor them, the 2 two blogs I have written that are now part of the Internet, the testamonies that will be left on Yad Vashem and will remember and honor them.

It has been said all my life “NEVER AGAIN” but it has happened again and in places around the world people continue killing people by the thousands because of who they are….humankind I hope will someday make this saying real and not just words.

Shalom my family and may each of you rest in peace as well as all who endured the horror of the Nazis!

Jewish German Heritage I Didn’t Know I had!

I did not know my birth parents growing up as I was given for adoption at birth. In 1986 I found my birth mother and in 1990 my birth father. I knew she was Polish and he German. I spent several years researching the maternal; side of the family but let the paternal side lay aside.

For some reason I cannot fully explain I picked up the search of the paternal side this past April. I found out his side was not only German but came from a long line of the Jewish faith. This began an extensive search as I wanted to know more, much much more!

Before stating the results I should let you now that the Jewish line died when my paternal grandfather married a gentile who did not convert prior to my father’s birth (nor ever) thus though I have a very long Jewish blood line I cannot claim to be Jewish as this is passed from the mother not the father.

Here is what I have been able to put together since April…with most being detailed/verified by the Civil Registry of Essweiler, Germany:

4th Great Grandparents:

Joel Franck b: 1748, Haidenfallt, Germany
d: 01/22/1836 Essweiler, Germany

Married: Eva Frankel b: 1767. Hundsbach, Germany
d: 06/14/1832 Essweiler, Germany

FranckHome

The Franck family lived in the since mid 1770’s until early 1900’s: order of homes from left…Franck, Wolf and Leob. Photo provided by the Essweiler Town Hall, a person also went out to the site last week to take a photo of the site today…the Franck and Wolf homes are no more though the Leob remains.

FranckHome1

They had 3 children:

1. Joseph Franck b: 01/17/1799, Hundsbach, Germany (3rd Great Grandfather)
d: 06/10/1872 Essweiler, Germany (see 2 marriages below) buried HinzweilerGermany….Jewish Cemetery Essweiler established. His tombstone is described by a photographer as: Joseph Frank – 10/6/1872: Von Esweiller, Stein mi Rundbogigen Abschlus auf Vorderseite im oberin Teil drei sechsblattrige Blumen (Rossetten) und eine x – formige Vergerung. Only 36 of the tombstones remain and are deteriorating quickly.

2. Moses Franck b: 08/28/1803, Neunkircher, Germany (3rd Great Uncle)
d: 01/20/1885, Essweiler, Germany

Married Johannetta Feibt on 05/11/1830 b:01/04/1804 Spendlingen, Germany d: 04/06/1851 Essweiler, Germany

She would give birth to 8 children ALL in Essweiler; if death date is listed they died in Essweiler:

1.Herman Franck b:05/15/1831 d:09/23/1903 Essweiler, buried Hinzweiler Germany

Herman married Ester Moses on 05/10/1860 in Essweiler, daughter of Aaron Moses/Henrietta Dreifus in Nanzweiler, Germany b: 04/17/1837 d:12/19/1884 Essweiler

Ester gave birth to 12 children all in Essweiler:

Carolina Franck b: 05/05/1861

Sara Franck b: 09/09/1862 d: 1938 Kairserslautern, Germany
Josephine Frank b: 05/15/1864 d: 12/12/1872 Essweiler
Julius Franck b: 12/15/1865
Amalie Franck b:02/16/1868 d:12/14/1870 Essweiler
Aaron Franck b: 05/19/1870
Gustav Franck b: 06/30/1872
Bertha Franck b; 02/18/1874
Adolf Frank b: 10/13/1876
Auguste Franck b:07/08/1878 d: 07/05/1942 Arolsen, Germany
Theodore Franck b: 04/04/1880
Salomon Franck b: 02/12/1882

2.Josephina Franck b:12/25/1832 d:11/24/1837
3.Regina Franck b:01/18/1835 d: 09/14/1835
4.Julius Franck b: 08/30/1836 d: 12/14/1837
5.Henrietta Franck b:01/11/1838
6.Johannetta Franck b:09/12/1841
7.Ferdinand Franck b:04/24/1844 d: 07/19/1845
8.Emilia Franck b: 10/16/1846

3. Barbara Franck b: 10/22/1812, Marienthal, Germany (3rd Great Aunt)
d: 08/22/1893, Essweiler, Germany, buried Hinzweiler, Germany

Married Moses Franck on 04/12/1838, Essweiler, Germany, Moses son of Moses Feilder/Sara Wolf b:09/29/1793 in Pleisweiler, Germany d: 1893 in Brucken, Germany. Barbara is his 2nd wife….1st wife is Elizabetha Hammel after giving birth in 1837 her 7th child. She passed. Barbara would give birth to 2 children:

Josephina Franck b:02/04/1839, Essweiler no record of marriage/death as yet
Rosina Franck b: 1852 Brucken, Germany d: 05/31/1902 Essweiler, Germany

Joseph Franck married 2x….1st wife passed, whoever transcribed records for Family Search mixed 1st wife’s 1st name with 2nd wife’s last name really messing up the record but civil registry fortunately has it correct!

1st marriage: 7/27/1825 to Josephina Henrietta Weiner b:12/28/1801
d: 08/03/1831
Had 3 children all who died in Essweiler, Germany at less than 1 year of age

2nd marriage:02/23/1832 to Rosina Wolf b: 12/21/1811, Essweiler, Germany (3rd Great Grandmother)
d: 10/24/1866 , Essweiler, Germany

Rosina’s parents would also be one set of 4th Great Grandparents: Benjamin Wolf ll
Sara Becker

Rosina gave birth to 6 children:

1. Rosina Josephina Franck b:01/21/1834, Essweiler, Germany (2nd Great Grandmother)
d: 01/06/1893, Wallerfangen, Germany

She married Nathan Jakoby…2nd Great Grandfather (Jacoby of Barweiler, Germany)…date unk at this time.

She would give birth to 8 children…have name/dates/etc elsewhere….with husbands and children it would add another 30 people to tree

Her sisters/brother: 2x great aunts/uncles

2. Fany Franck b: 03/26/1835, Essweiler, Germany
d: 12/17/1835, Essweiler, Germany

3. Julius Franck b: 08/09/1836, Essweiler, Germnay
d: 01/14/1893, Essweiler, Germany have found no record of marriage as yet

4. Phipinna Franck b: 10/26/1838, Essweiler no record of marriage or death found to date

5. Susanna Franck b: 08/28/1840, Essweiler, Germnay
d: 10/27/1873, Essweiler, Germany

Susanna married Lazarus Jacob on 02/26/1873 b:04/27/1847 Tholey, Germany to Isak Jakob/Lisetta Oppenheimmer no death date given in Essweiler. Her Uncle Nathan Jacoby and brother Julius would be 2 of the 4 signatures on the marriage decree.
Susanna passed during child birth of her only child:

Joseph Jacob b: 10/27/1873 d: 10/27/1873 in Essweiler

6. Barbara Franck : 03/30/1844, Essweiler, Germany

Barbara would on 05/26/1874 marry Susanna’s widow Isak Jacob. She would give birth to 6 children and a still born all in Essweiler. Johanna is the only one I currently have a marriage record in Essweiler

1. Johanna Jacob b: 09/15/1874
2. Rosalia Jacob b: 11/24/1875

Johanna married on 10/24/1894 in Essweiler to Hugo Hertze son of Hert Hertze/Helen Leifgens b:07/29/1870 in Randerath, Germany.

Johanna gave birth to 3 children in Essweiler then no further information on her or Hugo passing…it was during this time that many of the Jewish faith were leaving Essweiler as the gov’t were now allowing them to move into larger cities.

Leo Hertze b: 07/17/1895
Adolph Hertze b: 12/13/1896, Adolph did marry in Essweiler to Rosa Lazar but no date given nor info on the bride or her parents
Arthur Hertze b: 08/16/1898

3.Ida Jacob b:10/22/1877
4. Flora Jacob b: 10/19/1879
5. Hedwig Jacob b:01/24/1882, married Silvian Geissiman 10/02/1912 in Kaiserslautern, Germany, b: 02/08/1882 in Westhoven, daughter of Issak Gerissman & Babette Picard, found no children or death dates as yet
6. Paulina Jacob b: 10/01/1884
7. Male Jacob b: 09/27/1889 d: 09/27/1889

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

Two Men Who Made a Difference!

Readers of my blog or my book know I spent what I considered the most formative years of my youth (age 11-18) as one of Father Flanagan’s boys at world renowed Boys Town, Nebraska.

I consider those years my most formative as they are the years where I would learn things and have some folks influence me that would stay with me throughout my life.

People who taught me some life lessons or influenced me were folks like Mr. Clarence Weinerth (Debate Coach), Ms. Geneveive Condon (English Teacher), Moe Synskie (Choir) and Dr. Patrick McGinnis (Guidance Counselor). I was able to thank Mr. Weinerth before he passed in 1997. I had a special meeting with Dr. McGinnis at the Alumni Reunion in 2011 to say a heartfelt thank you. Ms. Condon & Moe I never said thank you before they passed but I say thank you now.

There were however two men who taught me the most and whose influence has carried me through the very trying times of my life since my youth. Two men who unfortunately I never took the time to say thank you to for how much they did for me and still do for me all these years later.

I never knew my father as a child. I would not meet him until I turned forty years old. I had a foster dad whom I always called DAD and do so til this very day, however he was hundreds of miles away during these formative years.

The two men I speak of are the late former Executive Director of Boys Town, Msgr. Nicholas H. Wegner and the late former Director of the renowned Boys Town Choir, Msgr. Francis P. Schmitt…for the seven plus years at Boys Town both were to become the “father figures” in my life.

Msgr. Schmitt
Msgr. Wegner

Both men were big in stature, strong disciplinarians. had booming voices but yet both were very gentle in heart and caring in spirit.

Both men had an open door policy for me, especially during my high school years. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I used the policy. I could talk to both of them about anything going on in my life and there were some very tough days during my years at Boys Town when I needed to talk or just have someone available with an open ear and a caring heart.

Both men taught me of the importance of faith in one’s life. They taught me about one having stand on their own two feet, discipline, hard work, fighting for what one believed in and to not forget to care about others who may be less fortunate than I. Both men taught these lessons not only in their words but by their very actions…they practiced what they preached! Msgr. Scmitt also taught me to have a special love of music, especially liturgical and classical. I think of him when our cathederal here in Fargo does its once a month Latin Mass and sing Gregorian chant.
Both men could have gone and done something different in their lives. Msgr. Wegner was at one time offered the opportunity to become a Bishop, he made the choice to stay with “his boys.” Msgr. Schmitt could have done anything within the musical world but Boys Town and his choir was his home.
I’d like to share a couple of stories about both men which I shared in my book entitled, “Lost Son.”
Msgr. Wegner:
Each high school boy was to have a job on campus. This is how we were to earn our thirty dollars a month we were given.I had a great job my freshman and sophomore year. Msgr. Wegner had his home connected to the chapel. My job was to be up at 5:30 and to be at his home by 6:15. I was met by Mrs. Ann Fischer, his personal cook. Mrs. Fischer was the mother of the famous Fischer boys of the National Football League. It was my job to help prepare breakfast and serve for him. It was great working with Mrs. Fischer. She always saw that I had a snack to take to school when I left for class. She said a growing boy needed more than three meals a day.It was during those two years that Msgr. Wegner and I got to be fairly close. Though the adults were not suppose to give us money Msgr. always saw that I had a few dollars in my pocket. Once breakfast was served he usually invited me to join him at the table. We always had interesting conversations.It was at the start of my junior year that I was greeted by Msgr. Wegner rather than Mrs. Fischer one morning. He took me aside and put an arm around my shoulder. He informed me that Mrs. Fischer had been killed in a car accident the previous night. She had been like a mother to me for the two years I worked with her. I lost someone special and the tears came.

Msgr. Wegner personally took me to the funeral and then to her home afterwords to eat and to meet her sons. Apparently she had told them about me. They knew me as soon as I entered the door. It was a sad day for me.

Msgr. Wegner did not hire a new cook after Mrs. Fischer’s death. Thus my job at his home ended and I moved on to work with the Director of Food Services.

Working for Mrs. Fischer and Cy is where I learned to cook and bake. A skill still in use today being a single person.

Msgr. Wegner’s and my relationship however continued throughout my remaining years at Boys Town. His door was open to me whenever I wanted to visit with him if he was in town.

During my senior year while I was still entertaining the thought of becoming a priest he arranged for me to spend a week at Mount Michael Abbey in Elkorn, Nebraska. It was shortly after that week I decided it was more my desire to be like Msgr. Wegner than a real vocation making me think of becoming a priest. I decided not to enter the seminary. I believe Msgr. Wegner knew this would be my decision but he allowed me to make it on my own rather than directing me in any one direction.

Msgr. Schmitt:

I have to tell you about the escapade with Msgr. Schmitt. For this story I will call him just “Schmittie.” One was not allowed to call him that while we were at Boys Town but once we graduated he felt we earned the right to do so. Schmittie was the Boys Town choir director I spoke of before. Now Schmittie loved the good things of life. He loved his berets, his loud Hawaiian shirts, rich expensive cigars and his Chives Regal.

I, as well as others, were always asking him to let us try his Chives. We always got no for an answer.

Underneath the high school dining hall was a quarters where the priest on campus went for their meals as well as relax. They had a private dining room as well as library area. This is also the space where most of them kept their alcohol…especially at Christmas time.

Schmittie seemed to get his share of bottles of Chivas at Christmas. A friend and I were determined that the Christmas of our junior year he would have one less bottle.

A few days before Christmas my friend stood watch as I crept and and snatched a bottle while Schmittie and a few other priests were having dinner.

We ran back to our cottage and down to the basement. I had never tasted hard alcohol before and did this stuff ever taste strong and have a bit. We had about three shots a piece and were feeling pretty good. We hid the remainder.

As we came upstairs who was standing by the doorway but Schmittie. He said he knew it had to be us who took his Chivas. Of course we denied it. He said he wanted to give us something to enjoy it with and handed us both one of his rich tasting, expensive cigars. He also reminded us that choir rehearsal was in an hour and left.

Well, I just had to have another shot of Chivas and a taste of this cigar. Back downstairs I went. My friend didn’t join me.

I had two more shots and lit up the cigar. Was that ever a mistake. I don;t know which caused most of the room spinning but did it ever spin. Soon I was looking for a bucket.

Anyone in the choir did not miss a choir rehearsal. After attempting to clean up, away I went despite still having the room spin and feeling sick.

Schmittie saw me as I entered the rehearsal hall. He just knew I was sick. All he said was, “Larry,feeling OK?” Smiling all the while as I looked and felt like hell.

It seemed that night that he worked the baritones and basses extra hard. All the while I just couldn’t wait for rehearsal to be over.

Schmittie never said another word about the incident until 1987 when I went back for my first reunion. His first words to me were, “Larry, feeling OK?” We both had a good laugh and I finally admitted his Chivas tasted pretty good and it was his awful cigar that made me sick.

It was at this reunion the alumni made a special presentation to Schmittie. He had left Boys Town about ten years earlier. The presentation was a large oil painting. Around the outer corners were various pictures of the choir. In the center was a smiling Schmittie wearing a beret, a Hawaiian shirt and a cigar in his mouth.

Msgr. Wegner passed away in 1976 and Msgr. Schmitt in 1994 but their legacy in my life continues to live on. The were the father figures in my life growing up at Boys Town; when I needed it most. One couldn’t have asked for two better ones than them!

I miss them both but I know they are never far away as it is their lessons taught and influences that I rely upon in life. The years of Boys Town are over forty-three years in my past but these two men and what they meant to me make it seem like just yesterday.

I will always regret never taking the time to say thank you to them and sharing with them what I just shared with you the reader. Hopefully this message with make its way up to them.

Since I did not know my birth family until I searched them out as an adult I have found several useful web site in that effort. One of those site is called, “Find a Grave.” Recently I decided to see if anyone had set up a memorial for Msgrs’ Wegner and Schmitt as one had been set up for Fr. Flanagan. I did not find one for either of them so decided to do one for each of them. I used some of my own words for each but also drew upon some words which were written by others far more eloguent than I. The memorials may be find at the links below. I know I am not the only Boys Town alumni who were taught lessons by them or have influenced their lives, there are thousands, feel free to leave a note or flowers at these memorials:

Msgr. Wegner:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSmid=47706875&GRid=84709443&

Msgr. Schmitt:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSmid=47706875&GRid=84711574&

When I graduated from Boys Town I did not realize the impact these two men had had on my life, it took me almost twenty-five years to realize it. Then it was too late to thank them personally as both had already passed to their just rewards. I will forever regret my stupidity!

May God grant them both eternal rest and peace…they both earned it! Your lessons were well learned and I say Thank You!

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.

Boys Town Alumni Honor Their Fallen

It is rare I post a blog entry that does not deal with foster care or adoption. However, today I must make an exception.

This past weekend (July 29-31, 2011) Boys Town Alumni returned to the place they call home for a reunion. It was a time of sharing memories of days gone by, renewing friendships with brothers/sisters (Boys Town began accepting girls in 1976). It is a time many of us look to every two years.

This reunion, though many events were memorable, had one event that stood above them all. Saturday (July 29) was dedication to the restored and updated Veterans Memorial honoring fallen brothers in service to their country.

Boys Town dedicated the original memorial at a reunion in 1991. It was simple but definitley left one who visited know that the young man who answered the call of their country and fell would not be fogotten as time went on. However unless one personally knew one of the fallen most alumni did not how many or who had fallen.

Each reunion a ceremony is held at the memorial to remember as a whole those who died. It usually gathered a not so large crowd of attendees as few could relate on a personal level to anyone.

George Buckler ’64  at a recent reunion had an idea to refurbished the memorial and to include marble slates on which bronze plaques would be placed inscribed with the name of the fallen. The idea was quickly adopted by the Alumni Association Board and the project was underway in November 2010. Funds were raised (over$20,000 was need and this goal has not been completely met as yet), planning, designing, etc.

On Friday I however made a visit to the site alone. I wanted a private time to reflect and shed a tear for one young man whose name is now on the wall. James Acklin was one of my best friends during years at Boys Town. He was also my debate partner in our senior year. I remember the grief when hearing of Jim’s death. Of course the greif was far, far greater for the young wife & two sons left behind (Rose, Jamie & Joey).

Saturday brought the fruition of all the efforts that had been made. The dedication was simple but memorable. This year hundreds made sure they were in place for the ceremony. It began with Posting of the Colors by the Boys Town Junior ROTC Color Guard, National Athem, Pledge of Allegiance & Prayer.

The guest speaker was John E. Hamilton, Junior Vice Commander VFW.

Flags that were flown in Afghanistan were given to the BT ROTC and Alumni Association by SSgt Mary, Baille USAF, herself a Boys Town alumn and recently returned from Afghanistan;

It concluded with a Prayer, Taps & Retiring of the Colors.

I know a few tears, mine & others, were shed during the ceremony. I concluded being there by slowly going to the wall and gently touching Jimmy’s name.

Now alumni and current residents of Boys Town will know by name those who answered the call of their country  and gave their all by name.

Seventy-one ( confirmed deaths )young men’s names are now on the memorial: forty-four from WWII, four from from Korea, seventeen from Viet Nam, one from Iraq/Afghanistan and six while still in uniform. Some new ones may be addeed in time when confirmation of their deaths are received or future conflicts.

Father Flanagan taught, his sucessors continued to teach, that one must honor their faith, family and country. These men learned that lesson as well as many others who have served and were able to return home. Over 800 alumni served in WWII. Over 2,000 aluni have served whether during war time or at peace.

After December 7, 1941, the 22 member class of 1942 wanted to immediately enlist. Fr. Flanagan convinced them to await their graduation. On the afternoon of their graduation they marched to the recruitment office..all 22!

Most of these young men were never able to fulfil the dreams they dreamt while at Boys Town. Most were never to marry and watch their chldren grow up. They heard the call of their country and they answered.

In the future I am sure a young woman’s name will be added to the wall as girls are not only now a part of the alumni of Boys Town but also are serving our country.

There are cities in this country that have memorials which may remember 71 young men/women who have fallen. I am sure however there is no high school in the country as Boys Town who have had so many serve as well as so many fall in that service. Service to country and others is a trademark of Boys Town.

Boys Town and its alumni are proud to call them brothers of the family of Boys Town. It is hoped for generations yet to come that they will be remembered. This newly refurbished memorial should help to accomplish this mission. It is hoped by me and some others that soon the Alumni Board will approve a move to make any alumni who has fallen in service to their country will be made Lifetime Members of the BTNAA. The majority of alumni who have fallen fell before there was the BTNAA and others fell too early to have had the chance to possibly even join the association yet alone become Lifetime members. This and the memorial is the least we can do in remembrance of the sacrifice they have made in our behalf.

When someone asks me about heroes…I will point them to this memorial of 71 heroes! Rest in Peace my fellow Boys Town brothers!

American Airlines Trip from Hell

This blog is very off topic for me. However, due to what this trip was like due to American Airlines I have to share it wide and far.

I received somewhat of an early Christmas present from one of my bosses. The trip was originally to be a business trip to New York City. However, after booking the flight the meetings were cancelled.

My boss decided to allow me to go to NYC anyway as well as pick up the cost of a hotel which would have been part of the original business trip.

This became an early Christmas present as it meant a trip at no cost to me except for what I decided to spend while in NYC. Thank you boss -J

Sunday morning December 12th, 2010 I arrived at the airport at 5:00 A.M. to be able to clear security, etc prior to a 6:10 A.M. departure. This is all well and quickly.

The flight entailed going to NYC from Fargo, ND via Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The airline is American Airlines!

So far, so good!

A little over an hour into the flight one begins to notice we are circling; usually this means we are about to begin making a decent to the ground but air traffic control has not given clearance as yet. Awhile later the pilot comes over the intercom to confirm what has been suspected and he expected to hear more from the ground by the top of the hour.

The top of the hour comes and goes without any word. At the bottom of the hour he says we have been cleared for landing and will begin our decent and should be on the ground within fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes comes and goes and we are still in the air!

A short time later however we notice the plane is beginning to descend and we even begin seeing very clearly houses and other buildings on the ground.  Yeah, I might just still make my connecting flight to NYC.

Suddenly without warning rather than landing the plane makes a quick upward turn to ascend. This happens for almost fifteen minutes before the pilot communicates with us.

He indicates that air traffic control said crosswinds were 50-70 knots and they gave him two choices:

A. Continue circling for an hour in hopes the crosswinds would lower and they could get us on the ground.

The plane only had enough fuel for another half hour so this option was not chosen unless we were to fall out of the sky.

B. Divert to Louisville, Kentucky.

This was the obvious choice! Eighty percent of the passengers were to make connecting flights at O’Hare and of course now none of us would be doing so and new arrangements would have to be made in Louisville. Arrangements would also have to be made to somehow get the other twenty percent back to Chicago since that was their final destination.

We are on the ground in Louisville and it appears the airline has prepared for the event by having extra agents at the inbound gate to try and make arrangements for all concerned.

We are talking 120 folks having to be taken care of…how long would this take.

First part of airline trip from hell is over and part two is about to begin!

I waited in line about an hour before it was my turn to find out my fate. Others had already been told they would be spending the rest of the day/night in Louisville and I didn’t want that to be my fate as well.

The agent working with me attempted several different options and none of them were working out. Finally she had had option to present to me. They could get me yet today to NYC but it would be sitting in Louisville for six hours and backtracking to the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Tx airport. This flight would get me into NYC at eleven P.M. I would lose almost half the time that had been allotted for NYC but it was better than nothing.

It also would mean cancelling my hotel reservation since by the time I actually got into the city from the airport it would be almost one A.M. and the room would not be of much use. I called and got the cancellation and got a full refund for what had already been paid for the night.

Six hours later and high dollars later as airport food is not cheap would end part two of the airline trip from hell or would it?

The plane has loaded, even with a few others who had flown with me from Fargo. We are ready to fly!

We sit at the gate with no word as to why. Finally the pilot announces they just finished the last of the loading of luggage and should be on our way shortly. We continue to sit!

Again the pilot talks to us. To push out of the gate airlines use what is called a tugger which pushes and the pilot is then able to start the engines. Apparently the airline’s tugger is not working and they are attempting to borrow one from another carrier. I cannot believe they do not have their own back up!

Finally they get a tugger and we are pushed from the gate. Due to cold weather and the fact it has been snowing the plane needs to be de iced before it can go anywhere, pilot says it should be long!

By this time I have already missed my connecting flight in Dallas for NYC…I am NOT a happy camper!

We continue to sit in place. Where is the truck with the de icer spray???

About twenty more minutes pass before the pilot announces the truck has no de icer spray and has to go and refill the truck….I fringing cannot believe it!

Two and a half hours sitting on the plane it has finally been pushed from the gate, it has been sprayed and we are ready for takeoff.

Part three of the airline trip from hell is over.

We have arrived in Dallas; I have missed my connecting flight which I knew was the case even before taking off from Louisville. I am at this point thinking if it is it to continue on to NYC as I don’t see a way of getting there before morning and I would only have to turn around in a few hours to go back to Fargo.

It’s time to talk with an agent. The agent says there is still one flight for the night to go to NYC but doesn’t know if any seats are still available and would arrive in NYC at three A.M. I stop the agent right there. I tell her there is only one way at this point I would fly into NYC and tell her of the day’s travails. I have been flying or sitting in airports since five A.M. and I should have arrived in NYC twelve hours earlier. I tell her I can understand the weather situation which caused us to be diverted to Louisville but I cannot excuse the unprofessionalism by airline works, not including agents who were very professional, and caused us to get in the air to Dallas two and a half hours late. I could not see going to NYC at this point for only a few hours and then have to return to Fargo.

I would do it only on one condition that is if a seat was available on this last flight of the night. The airline had to approve without cost to me a change on my return flight so I could still spend a night in NYC. They would have to approve me returning home on Tuesday evening rather than Monday. She said she herself could not approve it but would get her supervise.

I repeated the same sad, sorry story in detail the supervisor. She said to first let’s see if there is a seat available on this last flight of the day. There is…it is the LAST available seat. She pauses for a few minutes then says, “I wouldn’t normally due this but considering all you have been through today I am going to approve your request and issue you a new ticket for your return flight on Tuesday instead of Monday.”

Yahoo….something is going right finally; unfortunately this meant arriving in NYC without a hotel and not being able to make one for Monday night until some hours after arriving in NYC. I didn’t care at this point. I would worry about that later.

Part four of the airline trip from hell is over!

I arrive at LaGuardia at three A.M. as told. I go out to take transportation into the city .itself. Lol and behold transportation stops at eleven P.M. and doesn’t resume until 5:30 A.M. There are two other options; take a taxi and having lived in NYC before I know taxi drivers and things they do so that option is immediately off the table; second option is to take a public bus via Harlem and catch a subway down to Grand Central Station. I want OUT of any airport so I choose option two!

Just after five A.M. I arrive at Grand Central only to find out that due to 9/11 it now closes at night from two A.M. until six A.M.

I find a police officer who I have enjoyable conversation with until the station opens.

After a few hours I am able to get a new hotel reservation at a different hotel than planned, even nicer, and my time in NYC turns out to be everything I knew it could be.

You will see that by the photo album, which I will provide the link for it just a bit; unfortunately there is one more part of the airline trip from hell!

My airline trip from hell which I thought was now behind me returns to haunt me.

Tuesday afternoon I arrive back at LaGuardia early due to the stepped up security process there due to 9/11. I go to the self check in desk, put in my credit card and it comes back it cannot find my itinerary try the flight number. I try the flight number and it again says it cannot find my itinerary and proceed to an agent.  

I proceed to the check in line to see an agent. I tell her what happened and give you the new ticket given to me in Dallas changing my return flight to today rather than yesterday.

She checks the system and says there is not flight info for me as the supervisor in Dallas did NOT cancel my original flight and when I didn’t show up for it the airline cancelled it as a no show.

It would take almost a half hour of her speaking with her supervisor and then waiting on the telephone for another supervisor to approve the reissue of the ticket as it was suppose to be and get me on my return flights home.

The return flight home went from this point without a hitch; arrived at Chicago’s O’Hare early, arrived if Fargo on time.

I have taken flight before that may have had an issue along the way but never ever had I been involved in such a nightmare.

I give the ticket agents a lot of credit as they did their job courteously and professional, except the error by the supervisor in Dallas, which I understand she will hear about it.

The delays which they have no control over were not caused by the agents rather so by the ground crews and air traffic control. Air traffic should NOT have has us circling the airport so long before making a decision about us landing in Chicago as they waited too long to divert us. The ground crew in Louisville was not prepared to push back the plane, de ice the plane which caused further problems.

If anyone asks me if I would recommend American Airlines for travel I would answer without hesitation NO!

Here is the link to all the photos taken while in NYC….to me, despite the airline, it was worth going!! You do not need to be a member of Facebook to view them:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=343737&id=721232585&l=bb0706a8d6

North Dakota says: Don’t Put Children in Foster Care!

This is the state where I now live.

By: Andi Murphy, INFORUM Published August 30 2010

North Dakota is at the forefront of a new trend in the way foster care is administered: Don’t put children in foster care.

The idea is to help families help themselves so they can keep their children, rather than having a judge order them into the foster care system.

When children stay with their families, they typically do better in school, and the odds of them aging out of the foster care system and struggling with adult life – free of the assistance they received before – are diminished, said Gary Wolsky, president and CEO of The Village Family Service Center in Fargo.

“The problems get costlier to fix if left untended,” Wolsky said. “Prevention is always cheaper.”

The effort could save taxpayers a bundle because it’s more expensive to put a child through foster care than it is to help the whole family, Wolsky said.

The family preservation initiative has also grabbed the attention of some North Dakota lawmakers, who say they hope to see the idea take off in the state.

“In the long run, I think it will cost us less money,” said Sen. Judy Lee, R-West Fargo.

Lee is chairwoman of the Legislature’s Human Services Committee and sponsored a bill in 2009 to secure more money for prevention and early intervention family programs.

Lee thinks keeping children with their families is better for the child. It keeps them in the same schools and communities, and is less stressful than placing them with strangers, she said.

Though Lee isn’t taking a firm stance on the initiative for the next legislative session beginning in January, she thinks there could be a chance for cases to come forward that would make way for additional changes to foster care.

Wolsky and others with The Village are acting as advocates for the state social services departments and are asking for a shift in funds from foster care to family preservation programs, along with a new child welfare philosophy.

The foster care decline:

North Dakota lawmakers have had an eye on early family intervention since 2006, when a pilot family empowerment program – the Family Group Decision Making Program – was started.

Before such programs existed, the number of children in North Dakota’s foster care system was on the rise. Now it’s on the decline, going from a high of 2,314 children in 2005 to 2,106 in 2009, according to a recent snapshot of child welfare data by the state Department of Human Services.

Tara Muhlhauser, director of the Human Services Department, couldn’t say if the new trend in family care caused the recent decline in foster children numbers. But she hopes that’s the case and that it will continue.

Muhlhauser also attributes some of the decline to the national Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.

This puts an emphasis on child safety, permanency, and placing foster children in adoption as soon as necessary, which may include terminating parental rights of biological parents. There are still times when, for a variety of reasons and despite additional help, parents are not able to adequately care for a child.

The case for family:

Nationally, about 463,000 children were in foster care on Sept. 30, 2008, the most recent statistics available.

That’s a 16 percent decrease from 2000 when there were 552,000 children in foster care, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System report.

Of those children, 47 percent were placed in non-relative care, 24 percent were placed with family and 10 percent were placed in institutions.

In North Dakota, about 18 percent of children returned to their parents from foster care are back in the foster care system within a year. About 36 percent of children in foster care are placed in three different homes. Foster kids also score 20 percent lower on standardized tests, according to data by The Village.

“You start bouncing kids around from place to place, you could almost say we’re part of the problem than part of the solution,” Wolsky said.

The best chance to avoid a troubled, homeless 18-year-old is for service programs to act while the individual is legally still a child, he added.

For 18-year-olds who are released from the foster care system, life can be tough, and they sometimes find themselves on the streets looking for their biological parents. These young adults have far fewer service and aide programs to take advantage of than children do, Wolsky said.

The cost of care:

It costs an estimated $3,000 to $4,000 for one family to participate in family preservation programs. This method tends to cost less over the long term because foster children usually spend an average of a year in foster care, said Sandi Zaleski, who works for The Village and is the director for these programs.

On the flip side, a foster family with a 10-year-old could get up to $752 a month, which adds up to $9,024 a year, not including other expenses.

In 2008, North Dakota legislators increased the state’s foster care rates to be on par with the Minimum Adequate Rates for Children report, a national report showing the costs of raising a foster child.

At any given time, there are more than 1,000 foster children in various foster programs in North Dakota. Depending on the kind of foster care a child receives, regular foster families can receive up to $825 a month for children 13 and older, and $656 a month for children younger than 5. Both are $290 more than what the rates were before 2008, Muhlhauser said.

In Minnesota, basic foster rates range from $647 a month for regular foster care to $337 for both adoption assistance and kinship care. These rates do not include payment rates for children with physical, emotional and mental problems, which can bump rates up to $1,100 a month for regular foster care and $500 for both adoption assistance and kinship care, according to the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ benefit comparison chart.

Minnesota revamped its child welfare system five years before North Dakota started making strides, and the state shows a 30 percent decrease in the foster children population.

In 2000, Minnesota had about 16,967 children in out-of-home foster care – 5,286 less than in 2009, when there were 11,699 kids in out-of-home foster care, according to the state’s child welfare report.

Minnesota implemented a pilot project in 2000 called Alternative Response, which was originally an alternative program to help families get the help they needed from welfare programs and find programs they were eligible for.

The program operated in 20 counties, and over a four-year period it demonstrated that children are safer when programs responded to their families first, said Erin Sullivan-Sutton, assistant commissioner for Minnesota Children and Family Services.

“We didn’t go into this with the notion to save money in foster care” or with foster care in mind, Sullivan-Sutton said.

After the program was done in 2005, Minnesota legislators allotted money to all 87 counties to continue what had been started.

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.”

President Issues Proclamation for Nat’l Foster Care Month

Presidential Proclamation-National Foster Care Month
A PROCLAMATION

Nearly a half-million children and youth are in foster care in America, all entering the system through no fault of their own. During National Foster Care Month, we recognize the promise of children and youth in foster care, as well as former foster youth. We also celebrate the professionals and foster parents who demonstrate the depth and kindness of the human heart.

Children and youth in foster care deserve the happiness and joy every child should experience through family life and a safe, loving home. Families provide children with unconditional love, stability, trust, and the support to grow into healthy, productive adults. Unfortunately, too many foster youth reach the age at which they must leave foster care and enter adulthood without the support of a permanent family.

Much work remains to reach the goal of permanence for every child, and my Administration has supported States that increased the number of children adopted out of foster care, providing over $35 million in 2009 through the Adoption Incentives program. We are also committed to meeting the developmental, educational, and health-related needs of children and youth in foster care. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a significant increase in funding for the Title IV-E adoption and foster care assistance program. States can use these funds to ensure those placed in foster care will enter a safe and stable environment.

In addition, we are implementing the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act. This law promotes permanency and improved outcomes for foster youth through support for kinship care and adoption, support for older youth, direct access to Federal resources for Indian tribes, coordinated health benefits, improved educational stability and opportunities, and adoption incentives and assistance. Former foster youth will also benefit from the Affordable Care Act, which, beginning in 2014, will ensure Medicaid coverage for them in every State.

This month, caring foster parents and professionals across our Nation will celebrate the triumphs of children and youth in foster care as they work to remove barriers to reaching a permanent family. Federal, State, and local government agencies, communities, and individuals all have a role to play as well. Together, we can ensure that young people in foster care have the opportunities and encouragement they need to realize their full potential.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim May 2010 as National Foster Care Month. I call upon all Americans to observe this month with appropriate programs and activities to honor and support young people in foster care, and to recognize the committed adults who work on their behalf each day.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

BARACK OBAMA

From Dark Childhood to Foster Care to Fulbright Scholor!

This is a great story:

By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • April 24, 2010

It would be easy to take one look at Kaitlen Howell’s past and write off her future.
 
Born into a violently abusive home, she was pulled out of school in first grade and never sent back. She spent her teen years bouncing through a series of foster homes and homeless shelters. Damaged goods, some called her.

Howell, Tennessee’s newest Fulbright scholar, graduates from Middle Tennessee State University next week with a double major in biology and German, a nearly flawless GPA, and enough academic trophies and awards to splinter a shelf.

She’ll spend the summer studying for the medical school entrance exams at her parents’ home in Murfreesboro — the parents who stepped forward to adopt her when she was 17 years old. She’ll spend her scholarship year in Germany, studying with a neurologist whose research could save thousands from a deadly type of stroke. She’ll spend the rest of her life trying to make the world a better place than the one she was born into.

“It doesn’t matter where you come from. That’s not who you are. Yeah, people took a whole lot from me. But I’m the happiest person I know,” she said, flashing an even wider version of her usual ear-to-ear grin. “Man, I’m alive! I’m 22! How great is that? I never thought I’d live to see 22. I was happy just being alive.”

‘I had a choice’

The Kaitlen Howell who is graduating from MTSU in May is very different from the one who started there 4½ years ago. She walked into her first college classes with a graduate equivalency degree and no idea just how wide the gap was between her and the rest of her classmates.

On the first day of her first general science class, the professor kept waving to the big chart on the wall. The one with all the tiny boxes and letters. The periodic table of elements. She’d never heard of it.

“I didn’t know what an atom was. I wrote it in my notes, A-D-A-M. I had no idea,” she said.

It would have been enough to make almost anyone throw up her hands in despair, walk away, quit. But Howell had survived far worse things than tough homework assignments, and she did what she had always done. She put her head down, gutted her way through and not only survived, but thrived.

“You can always find an excuse,” she said. “For the longest time, I didn’t have a life, I didn’t have a source of hope. But I had a choice. You can choose to get your GED. You can choose to get out of bed today. If you don’t kill yourself today, that’s a choice.”

She had to teach herself how to study. She took 24 credit hours of remedial classes just to get on a par with the rest of the incoming freshmen. She racked up A after A in class after class. In her entire college career, Kaitlen has earned only one B — when she passed her first chemistry class.

She’s the student who asks the good questions in class, listens carefully to the answers and then absolutely ruins the grading curve.

“She loves the learning, and she’s willing to work hard,” said biology professor Gore Ervin, who remembers her performance in one of his embryology classes, where she was not only the top student in the class, but a full letter grade ahead of anyone else. “She clearly has great innate ability. … I’d put her in the top five of all the students I’ve ever taught.”

On top of the staggering 23-hour course load she carried in her final semester as an undergraduate, Howell volunteers her time to anyone who needs it. She tutors, and she works with AIDS patients, with teens in foster care preparing to start college, with victims of domestic violence.

‘I had to start fighting’

Howell spent a lonely, dangerous childhood reading her way through every book she could find. She read To Kill a Mockingbird in first grade. She read The Lord of the Rings. She read the Hardy Boys. She dreamed of turning 18 and earning her freedom. As things turned out, she didn’t have that much time.

“There came a point where my life was literally in danger. I realized that I was going to die if I stayed there,” she said. “I realized I had to start fighting if I wanted to live.”

She was 15 years old when she escaped the abuse and neglect of that home, into the foster-care system and the winding route that would eventually cross her path with Allen and Melanie Howell of Murfreesboro.

It was 2005 when a friend at church first introduced Kaitlen to the Howells, a 40ish professional couple with no children of their own.

Countless older teens age out of the foster-care system without ever finding a family.

Kaitlen’s wait had ended.

“I don’t remember ever having a big discussion about it. As soon as we met her, we knew,” said Melanie Howell, an interior decorator who stepped up to become a first-time mother to a 17-year-old girl. The Lord, she said, had spoken with her about caring for the widows and orphans, and one day, there she was — “like the stork had delivered us a 17-year-old.” For Kaitlen, the experience of joining a real family was almost as disorienting as the leap from first grade to the college chemistry lab.

“The family thing was hard for me. I didn’t know how long it was going to last,” Kaitlen said. Over the years, a few of her many foster families had talked about adopting her, but nothing ever came of it, and each disappointment made an already untrusting young girl even more wary. “It hardened my heart. I just thought people make promises and don’t keep them.”

It took years for her to believe the Howells weren’t going to change their minds about her. It was last year, in fact, that she really started to believe it.

Now, while her friends are rushing to find off-campus housing, eager to live on their own, Kaitlen still lives happily with her parents. She’d never stayed anywhere longer than two years at a time, and when she passed that mark with the Howells, she said, she celebrated.

‘I picked who I am’

There’s plenty of reason to celebrate these days. The Fulbright has produced more Nobel Prize winners than any other academic honor, and hers will pay her way to Germany, to the West Saxon University of Zwickau, in fall 2011. There she will be part of the research team looking into a possible link between a small congenital defect that affects a quarter of the population — a tiny hole between the atria of the heart that fails to close in the womb, as it should — and an increased risk of stroke.
She wants to help people, so she’s planning to earn an M.D. She wants to help a lot of people, so she figures she’ll pursue a dual Ph.D. at the same time and become a medical researcher.

A physician can help only the people she can reach with her hands, she figures. A researcher can find a treatment or cure that could save millions of lives at once.

But of all the things she’s proud of in her new life — and she’s been averaging three academic awards ceremonies a week for the past few weeks — she’s most proud of this: her name. She took the Howell name and she gave herself a new first name to go with it. Kaitlen Howell is who she has made herself to be.

“Here’s my life theory. Everything has good and bad. You walk through life and there’s evil and there’s dark, but you can choose to walk through life in the bright times, through the colors,” she said. “I decided I was going to pick what I would let affect me.

“I like who I am. I picked who I am. I picked the whole rainbow.”

7 Yr. Old Foster Youth Hangs Himself!

Personal Note: When I read this article for the first time I cried for Gabriel. At age 7 he decided life was no longer worth living. It brought back to me memories of my own years in foster care.

By the age of 10 I had been in foster care since the day of my birth. I had been moved into 3 different insitutions and ten foster homes by that time. 

The next move was to a Juvenile Detention Center to await a new foster home. In my book I share a few expereiences from my time ther…it tells why I relate so much to Gabriel.

The passage from the book reads:

 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. ..gang raped!

One day after being assaulted and left naked in a cell, I felt my life was no longer worth living, no one wanted me and I had been used and discarded as trash, I 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.

In late July, another foster home was found…the eleventh in ten years.

Here is Gabriel’s sad story:

Apr 26, 2009 3:00 pm US/Eastern
7-Year-Old With Troubled Past Commits Suicide
Gabriel Myers Told Therapist He Was ‘A Bad Person… Born A Liar’
MIAMI (CBS) ―

A 7-year-old boy who allegedly hanged himself complained to his therapists that he was “a bad person,” and “born a liar,” taught to lie by his own mother, according to newly released documents.

The nearly 1,500 pages released late Friday night by state officials paint the portrait of a terribly troubled child in the foster care system — going from home to home with a repetitive sentiment: loneliness and anger. In just seven years, Gabriel Myers seems to have experienced a life no parent would want for any child, reports CBS station WFOR-TV in Miami.

Myers, who turned 7 in January, died on April 16th when police say he hanged himself using the extendable shower-head in his foster parents’ Margate home. But according to the documents obtained by the CBS, the child’s troubled life began long before.

In 2003, the 7-year-old’s mother, Candace Myers, was arrested by Hallandale Beach police on charges of cocaine possession and driving under the influence. But it wasn’t until a similar arrest last June by the same police agency that a judge ordered the child be removed from his mother’s custody. He had been found in a car with his unconscious mother, surrounded by powdered cocaine and crack cocaine.

That’s when a child in the midst of losing his innocence — and ultimately his life — is captured on paper.

“My mom taught me how to lie. She always lied to the police, to everybody,” he told a therapist after throwing scissors in school. “I lied when I was 1 year old, I lied when I was 2 years old. I was born a liar and I will always be lying,” he said in another therapy session.

“[The] devil makes me lie and do all those bad things. He is bad and he makes you do bad things,” the boy told the therapist.

In the documents, the child recalls being molested by another 12-year-old boy and being told to “pee in [the 12-year-old’s] mouth.” The records also show the child had been molesting girls and boys at school, touching them inappropriately, and threatening to kill others and himself. He repeatedly said he had no friends.

“I used to have some imaginary friends. I still have one but I haven’t been talking to him a long time,” Myers reportedly said.

Psychiatrists and therapists wrote that the young boy wasn’t suicidal or psychotic, but from time to time, had dramatic tantrums. It was during one of those tantrums that he lost his life and, according to a DCF spokesperson reached Saturday, the circumstances surrounding that tantrum could have been a violation from the start.

According to the DCF documents, when Gabriel Myers was found dead April 16th, he was left at the Margate home with 19-year-old Miguel Gould. Gould is the son of Michael and Daver Gould, Myers’ foster care parents. He was visiting from Canada, according to the DCF spokesperson.

Miguel told Margate police that he was “caring for Gabriel for the day because the boy was home sick from [school].” The child reportedly threw his bowl of soup into the trash, “so Miguel sent the child to his room,” Margate police documented. While in his room, the boy began throwing toys then told Miguel Gould that “he was going to [go] into the bathroom and kill himself.” Miguel Gould told police that he later called his stepmother to tell her what happened and couldn’t get into the bathroom for another five to ten minutes. That’s when the child was reportedly found hanged.

The problem is Miguel Gould wasn’t even supposed to be left alone with the 7-year-old, according to the DCF spokesperson. He had not been officially screened by the agency.

“Kids in Distress [one of the organizations charged with overseeing Gabriel Myers] was aware that Miguel was coming to visit. They had begun background studies on him, but he was not a part of the recently signed safety contract so he should not have been left alone with Gabriel, if that’s what happened,” said DCF Regional Spokesperson Leslie Mann.

A REPETITIVE CYCLE

The Gould foster home was Gabriel Myers’ third in less than a year. The DCF documents obtained by the I-Team show he first entered the foster care system on June 29, 2008. He was placed in a licensed home through Kids in Distress. Some days later, he was moved to the home of his aunt and uncle. He lived there for some three months until Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) investigators received a report alleging sexual and physical abuse.

While investigators found no signs of sexual abuse, the uncle revealed he “did try corporal punishment” and hit the child with a belt. A Broward County judge issued an emergency order and moved Gabriel Myers back to the licensed home.

However, that wasn’t the last move for Gabriel. In March, the foster parent thought Gabriel might be a threat to his baby and requested “expedited service” in removing the child from his home. Officials with Kids in Distress, ChildNet, and DCF moved Gabriel to the Gould home.

MEDICATION COCKTAIL

According to the documents, when Gabriel first entered the system, he had with him a prescription bottle of Adderall XR, a drug typically taken for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The medication appeared melted. A new prescription was filled, but ultimately stopped. The DCF documents show Gabriel began seeing a psychiatrist soon after entering the system.

The psychiatrist later prescribed Lexapro, a drug for depression and anxiety, and Vyvanse for the child’s ADHD. In March, doctors took Gabriel off Lexapro, and put him on Symbyax, also for depression and possible schizophrenia.

All three of the drugs have an FDA-mandated “black box” warning — a statement on the prescription’s box which describes its possible adverse reactions, including suicidal thoughts.

DCF INVESTIGATION STALLED

Meanwhile, DCF intends to continue its investigation and Mann says an important piece of the puzzle is whether he was left alone with the 19-year-old, the DCF spokesperson said. But law enforcement won’t allow DCF to interview the Gould family to see if Miguel had any prior training to take care of Gabriel, until after Margate police finish their investigation

“Urgency is our mission and transparency is our mission. It’s difficult to answer because we don’t have all the answers. We’re thinking Gabriel was home alone with the 19-year-old but we don’t have 100 percent confirmation of that. If he was, that would have been a violation,” said Mann.

The documents show a child shuffled around, seemingly not wanted by anyone, and in the end, alone in a Margate bathroom.

Bitter Life Teaches Foster Youth to NOT Limit Herself!

I think it is important for foster youth or foster alumni to read and hear about others who have gome through the system who have made it, who have not proclaimed themselves as victims.

Therefore I was delighted when I read the article velow in the Idaho Statesmen and felt the need to share it here for those who may not get alerts dealing with foster care.

Bitter life experiences teach foster child not to limit herself
Katherine Jones/Idaho Statesman

“Everything has made me, me,” says Brittany Mars. She was born to parents addicted to drugs, moved from foster home to foster home until she was 18, transformed her life after a failed adoption and now is a happy, successful college student. “I just think that to narrow it down to my foster family or even (my siblings) is too narrow. There is so much more in this life that has made me who I am,” she says. “Every experience, and every place we go shapes us in one way or another.”

As a toddler, Brittani Mars developed her sense of what “family” meant – by watching television. She’d see kids in a loving environment with doting parents enveloped in a sense of security with happy endings. It certainly wasn’t what her house was like.

She says: “I knew we were missing out on something. As a kid, I always knew I wanted to have what they had (on television). I never experienced that until I was adopted. Or maybe in foster homes, but they never lasted.”

Brittani is the second of four children born to parents addicted to drugs. Her parents separated, her father disappeared and, when she was 3, her mother lost custody. When Brittani was 7, her mother’s parental rights were terminated – about seven years late, Brittani says.

“I was born addicted to meth. I should have been taken from mom at that point”

Brittani was adopted when she was 7.

“I never felt as if I’d have a home and family and somebody to call my own (but then I did)

Her adoptive mother was diagnosed with a degenerative disease. Brittani was, she admits, quite a handful, and at age 10, she went back into foster care. It was, and still is, painful for both her and her adoptive family.

“I was still acting out, lying, doing anything I could to get attention, either positive or negative. I was a lot of work I was getting counseling, but I think we didn’t start early enough.

“(However), I was transformed with the failed adoption. I learned I couldn’t just treat people how I wanted. I couldn’t just do whatever I wanted. I lost everything I cared about because I couldn’t get my act together.”

In Idaho, there are almost 2,000 kids in foster care. In Boise, the number of foster families has not increased in six years, though the number of children in need continues to grow. There is a nearly desperate need for foster families in general, and in particular, families willing to care for adolescents, sibling groups and pregnant teens.

Brittani lived in six foster homes between the ages of 10 and 18. Although some of the homes were difficult and even traumatic, some of them were exactly what she needed. One family took her to church, where she found a faith to count on. She was assigned a caseworker who gave her rock-like support. In another home:

“I moved in with an older single ladyIt was a really perfect place for me. She gave me freedom and independence, but with structure and rules. She wasn’t always in my face and she wasn’t touchy-feely. She gave me the space I needed to heal.”

But Brittani still craved the sense of family. In one last move before she was 18, she found a place that she now calls home.

“A few key people in my life made a significant impact on who I am and have gotten me where I am today. At the same time, (there’s something internal that’s) a testimony to the human spirit and the willingness to do what it takes to survive.”

Today, Brittani is a well-adjusted 19-year-old student at Northwest Nazarene College, studying social work. She doesn’t make a secret of her childhood, but she realizes it’s a lot for people to digest.

“Kids in care are so stereotyped. When people find out you’re in foster care, they automatically assume you are bad; they see you differently. Kids in care are just like kids anywhere else, except they’ve gotten help

“Kids have behaviors. That’s not why they’re in foster care. It’s because they’re hurting and need to be loved and they need people to care for them. There are ways to remedy behavior problems; there’s always a solution.

One of the things she was given – that she created – is a wisdom rising from her past.

“I value relationships a lot more. I know what it feels like to lose people you care about

“Everyone has goodness, and there’s weakness in everyone, too. But even the hardest mean-spirited person cares about something.”

Although originally cut off from them, over the years Brittani has been in contact with her biological family. Some of her siblings are fine, yet others are trapped in the legacy of abuse, drug use and psychological trauma. “I don’t know why it worked for me,” she says.

“(But) it’s important to know where you come from. It’s important to resolve issuesIt would be a shame to go through all of this for nothing.”

Her past has led her to where she is – and to where she will go. From her foster family’s church work with an organization in Rwanda, Brittani learned about the genocide there.

“That awareness awakened a passion in me for children and what they’ve gone through.

“I’ve always loved children, especially those neglected and abused. I can relate to them and what they’ve been through. My experience doesn’t begin to relate to what they’ve gone through in Rwanda, but at the same time, I do know what it’s like to feel loss and pain

“We’re all called to help people. I hope my degree in social work can help me understand where I come from, grasp everything I have gone through and (learn) how to use that to help others.”

Brittani has dreams for her life. “College, first of all,” she says. “Here I am. Hallelujah.” And working with neglected or underprivileged children in the inner city or a group home.

“Life goes on. It’s scary. I’m terrified to end up like my mom. That’s why I’m in college. I’m not a strong believer in higher education (she values life experiences), but that sets me apart from my mom. She couldn’t do college.

“We’re only limited by how we limit ourselves.”