Blood Relative Finds Me After 51 Years Separation

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

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

Here goes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael’s reply came within minutes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Mike~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know how things go!
Cousin Larry~

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

Larry,

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

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

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

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

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

God bless,
Charles

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

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

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

What Foster Care Feels Like

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

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

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

http://www.fosterfocusmag.com/whatcarefeelslike

Number of Youth in Foster Care by State

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

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

 

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

Foster Youth Awaiting Adoption per State

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

adoption

Growing Up In the Village of Little Men, A life spent on the legendary campus written by a Boys Town Alum

I have been posting on Facebook for the past month that an article I wrote of my years at Boys Town would be appearing in the June 2013 edition of Foster Focus Magazine and promised to share it on Facebook.

Unfortunately for some reason I am unable to post the actual article from the Foster Focus June 2013 edition on Facebook. It appears to be too large due to the photographs chosen to be used in the article. I am including the text of the article in this WordPress blog as many on Facebook have requested being able to read the article.

It is my hope that the “older generation” of Boys Town will relive a bit of our past when reading the article’ the newer generation will learn how things were in the past and others will learn a bit about Boys Town and the impact it had not only on my life but to the thousands who have walked this campus.

Here is the article in its’ entirety but unfortunately without the photos used in the magazine:

By Larry Adams
Foster Focus Contributor

I have been asked if I could write an article describing daily life at Father Flanagan’s Boys Home; famously known simply as “Boys Town” located in Omaha, Nebraska.

It is difficult to fulfill this request as no two days at Boys Town can be described as typical. Yes, there were certain daily functions like meal time and school, much more was offered each day to fill a boy’s time.

Rather than a typical day I would rather write in generalities of my seven plus years at Boys Town as well as what it has meant to me to this very day.

I entered the foster care system in Michigan on the day of my birth. Before Boys Town I had been moved thirteen different times between institutions and foster homes. I arrived at Boys Town, Nebraska in the late morning of April 16, 1961.

I arrived a terrified, anger filled boy of 11. I had “my brown paper bag” of worldly possessions with me. I had no idea what was to become of me. I was in a place I had never heard of before arriving.

After a brief meeting with a caseworker, my social worker departed Boys Town for her return flight to Detroit. I felt I was alone and lost in the world.

I was taken to what they, at that time, called the Orientation Center. There, I was shown a bed and a locker that was to be mine supposedly for the next 2-3 weeks. Then I was tested, interviewed and they determined to what part of Boys Town I would be sent.

I still very clearly remember crying myself to sleep my first night at Boys Town and for nights afterwards.

I still remember after being at Boys Town about a week, a counselor coming to visit with me. While talking with me he decided to checkout my locker. There he found “my bag.” I should say that in the first days there one was taken to the clothing store on campus and given a number of sets of clothes and toiletries. Mine were all packed in “my bag.”

The counselor asked me “Why were all your things in a bag rather than hanging up or on the shelves?”

I told him “I wanted to be ready when they came to get me again to take me elsewhere.”
The counselor called me over to and took me in his arms saying, “No one is going to come and take you away. I know about your life to this point and I want to let you know….you now have a home.”

I don’t think he ever fully figured out the emotions he triggered within me with those words. My eyes began misting up and before long I was crying uncontrollably. “You now have a home” kept going through my mind. “No one is going to come and take you away.” For the first time in my life someone had actually said “I was home.” I had waited over 11 years to hear those words. I don’t know how long the counselor held me in his arms, but I know it was long enough for us to miss dinner in the dining hall and he had to make arrangements for food to be brought to me. I know that for the first night since coming to Boys Town I did not need to cry myself to sleep.

Soon after leaving orientation for Gregory Hall, I was caught up in the activities at Boys Town as most boys were. Though the school year would soon be over, I was assigned to the 5th grade. I began daily choir practices along with the other choir members. Now that I had a home, my life looked different. I even unpacked “my bag” for the first time in almost 11 years…it was never packed again.

The remainders of my middle school years were rather uneventful. I continued to pass to my next grade. I was singing in the Chancel Choir and later the Repertoire Choir. During those years, I did not consider myself very athletic, so I left sports alone. I was awaiting graduation from eighth grade when I would be able to transfer to the high school section and a new world of privileges would await me.

Though Boys Town was considered a village unto itself, it was very much a part of the Omaha community. Because I was active in choir and other music programs, I had many opportunities to travel into Omaha with escort, to attend a wide variety of functions. These events could include chamber music concerts, chorale concerts or even us boys giving concerts.

Boys Town also had a wide-ranging athletic program and back in the 1960s we were amongst the top teams in the state. Boys Town won several state titles in basketball and football. When the teams were not playing at home, we boys went to town with them to cheer them on. Thus, many opportunities presented themselves for us to meet people of the community and even develop friendships. Most of my friendships came while I was in high school, but I loved the chance to go to Omaha for events while still in grade school.

June 1964…Graduation Day…I am now a high schooler. Graduation Day is the day any boy who had spent some years at Boys Town awaited. I had already been here over three years. I would move from a dorm of 25 boys to a cottage which had 5 bedrooms with only 4 boys per bedroom. Privileges not allowed grade schoolers were now mine; I could obtain passes to downtown Omaha; I could get a one week vacation away from the home if I had somewhere to go and it was approved; I could start to smoke. Yes, Boys Town allowed high schoolers to smoke back then. Now smoking is not permitted by anyone on campus.

Graduation was another one of those sad days for me. Many of the boys in my class of 1964 had family come to cheer their graduation. I had no one present.

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, late former Executive Director of Boys Town, 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 took me under his wing and we 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.

Msgr. Wegner’s and my relationship 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.

He provided me with a “father” figure, missing from the early days of my childhood. He went further out of his way to support me than his position required.

I felt a little athletic my freshman year and went out for wrestling and track. My wrestling career didn’t last long, as after my first two defeats, the coach decided it was not my sport and suggested I concentrate on track. I ran hurdles and one mile. I was not spectacular at either, but survived the season.

I have to be honest and say I did not set the world of schooling on fire during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. In matter of fact,, I had no real interest in school and did only what was required to skate through. By the end of my sophomore year I ranked near the bottom of my class. It was not due to lack of intelligence rather; “I just didn’t care” as I was still mad at the world.

My junior year brought a sudden transformation of my life that I am grateful for to this very day. I, even as a small child, loved to argue. If it were night I would argue it was day, anything for an argument. My English teacher that year was a Ms. Genevieve Condon.

Yes, I even argued in her class! She saw something positive in my argumentative nature. Ms. Condon kept me after school one day early in the school year. She talked to me about my arguing and how she saw it as an ability, if it were directed in the proper way. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Ms. Condon took me to meet Mr. Clarence Weinerth; another English teacher but also the coach for the newly begun Speech & Debate Team. Ms. Condon simply told him, “I think we have a debater for you.” Yeah, I could now argue, and get away with it! Mr. Weinerth of course let me know that with the ability to argue I also now had to prove my case. This meant lots of hard work researching the question being debated. It also meant that to be part of the debate team and go to tournaments, my grades had to improve. I was determined to do whatever it took.

I made the novice debate team that year. I was a good debater, even though rough around the edges. My senior year, I made the varsity debate team. My partner (Jim Acklin) and I were, if I say so myself, great. Jim and I were rarely defeated. We traveled throughout the Midwest on weekends during the season, accumulating numerous trophies as winners of the tournaments. Our record at the end of the season was 289 wins as opposed to only 29 defeats. I still wonder how we lost the 29!

In January of 1968, I decided to enter the political arena and run for Mayor of Boys Town. Boys Town is a separate village. When Fr. Flanagan began the home, he determined it should be self-governed by the boys themselves, of course with his guidance. A new mayor and city council would be elected every six months. I felt I had something to offer Boys Town and tossed my hat in the ring.

My first venture into politics turned into a solid defeat, coming in next to last. It was not to be my last political venture.

In February of 1968, I turned eighteen and technically “aged out of the system.” It was also my senior year in high school. Though I could have walked out of Boys Town; I didn’t! I wanted to earn my diploma! It was also proving to be the first time in my life that I was accomplishing something and I wanted to see it to the end. I think in many ways it was the year I grew up!

A lot of things are packed into the last few months of one’s senior year of high school. Boys Town was no different. In February I was shocked to learn that my girlfriend (Marilyn) and I were chosen as King and Queen of the Sweetheart Ball for Valentine’s Day. Marilyn was a debater at another local high school. We had met at a tournament and started dating late in my junior year. I spent most of my passes into town my senior year, when I wasn’t away at a debate tournament with Marilyn.

In April was an Awards Banquet for varsity athletes to receive their BT letters and jackets; debate was considered a sport at Boys Town and I wore my jacket proudly. In May it was the Junior/Senior Prom at Peony Park Pavilion in Omaha. I wore a tuxedo for the very first time and of course took Marilyn as my date. Graduation being but a few weeks away, we were allowed to stay off campus well into the night. Preparations also had to be made as to what I would do after graduation.

Two years before I was near the bottom of my class of one hundred-thirty eight. Now I was in the top 5%. Ms Condon and Mr. Weinerth had accomplished their mission. They took a poor student who loved to argue and made a winning debater/orator out of him while also for the first time giving him a genuine interest in school. I will forever be grateful to them both. Ms. Condon is long deceased. I had visited Mr. Weinerth in my few return visits to Boys Town. He passed away at 95 in June 1999. Though in his later years he was physically incapacitated, his mind remained as sharp as a knife. On my last visit he had me take a scrapbook from his night stand to look at; one of the few mementos he took to the home with him. Inside were all the pictures taken and articles written of Jim and I. His words; “I have always been proud of my boys.” My debate partner Jim and me remained close friends after leaving Boys Town until his death in a plane crash, he was testing a new fighter plane in the US Air Force, in 1987.

June 2, 1968, Graduation Day arrives. The day I had been awaiting for seven years, one month and seventeen days.

Graduation at Boys Town is different from any other high school graduation in the country. You are not only graduating high school; you are also loosing “your home.” Boys Town had for over seven years provided me “a home.” It had provided me nurturing, a spiritual compass, an education. Graduation meant you are now an adult and it is time for you to go out in the world and make whatever mark on it you are capable of. It meant that for the first time in over seven years I would once again be “homeless.” The graduation ceremony begins mid afternoon on a Sunday and the rule is that ALL graduates must be off campus by 5 p.m. It was time to make room for new boys.

A day like graduation should be a joyous occasion as you have accomplished the first major step in your life. However, it was not such for me. I had made many friends in the Omaha and surrounding communities over the years due to debate, and many of them accepted my invitation to graduation. They cheered and stomped when my name was called. I still felt emptiness. Yes, I had friends present, but no family who would hug, congratulate and say how proud of me they were.

The fullness of graduation hit me after the ceremony when I walked to the high school building for the final time as a boy of Boys Town. After turning in my cap and gown I went to the table where I would collect a one way bus ticket to wherever I wanted to go, $50.00 from Boys Town and whatever money I had saved during my years there….which came to about $700. Fortunately I had been a saver at Boys Town; a trait I still possess today. With a final good-bye and a wish of good luck it was time to go; time to “leave home.” The only good thing was that this time I was not leaving home with only “a brown paper bag.” I was leaving with suitcases of clothes, boxes of books and mementos collected over seven years.

I remember standing outside the high school building and wondering “Am I ready?” “What am I going to do?” “Where is home?” and I made sure no one could see..a mist blurring my vision.

I should note that on the Friday before graduation I learned I had two full scholarship offers to continue my education. I accepted the offer from Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, NE.

Ready or not it was time to leave from the safe, stable confines of Boys Town which I had known as “home” into the world of the unknown.

I arrived at Boys Town with a half filled brown paper bag and left with suitcases of clothes, boxes of books and mementos. I arrived at Boys Town hating school and left graduating in the top 5% of my class and a full scholarship to college. I arrived with many bad memories of years in foster care and left with memories of “short sheeting” the tough guys, fishing at the BT lake and eating freshly fried fish behind the dining hall, having freshly baked Danish with melted butter from the bakery, running across to the 10 Mile Inn to see if they would serve us, the 1st cigarette or choir section adventures. The “Twelve Night” celebrations, “intramural sports”, The “Boys Town Choir,” once nationally known from its’ tours and records, “Christmas Eve Midnight Mass”, even the two week Liturgical Music Workshop at Boys Town attracting, renowned musicians and scholars from across the globe, the “Trade School” in which many boys learned a skill that would provide a lifetime career.

Discipline was being part of the “floor shining gang.” Now, bear in mind this was not done with a power shiner. Let me describe this floor buffer for you. It had a metal pole about four feet in length. Attached at the bottom was a 15-20 pound piece of square iron with bristles on the bottom of it. This is what was used to shine the floors. One first went over the floor several times with just the brush touching the floor. Then you repeated the process with a cloth beneath the bristles.

Let me tell you, when one finished you could see your face in the floor. Your arms were also tired as heck. I made this floor shining gang more than one time.

As you can see, we boys of Boys Town were your typical teenage boys. These were some of the things that made all of us at Boys Town part of the community and “our home.”Though I didn’t realize it until years later…these were very good years. Sending me to Boys Town was the best decision made for me during my 18 years of foster care!

Boys Town had been more than just a place that the foster care system had dumped me into. It had raised me, given me an education, nurtured me, given me a spiritual basis for my life and so much more. It had in fact been a “home.”

I have returned to Boys Town for class reunions and will do so again for my 45th is just a few weeks away.. Though the changes have been made and continue, I will make the most of my time there…I will make it “my home” even if it is just for a weekend…it is still the only “home” I have ever known. “Home” was taken from me far too many times in my young life…I won’t allow anyone to take “my home” from me now or ever!

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

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

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

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

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

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

How You May Participate in Foster Care Month:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is up to US!

Give foster youth full access to Affordable Care Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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