Emanicipated Youth Get Help to Buy Their Own Homes

Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative has started a program called Opportunity Passport, which helps emanicipated foster youth buy their own homes and other large assets like cars.
Here’s a great success story about a young woman in Atlanta.
The story once again highlights the continuing struggles faced by youth in our foster system after they leave State care.

Book about Foster Youth Wins Literary Award

On Their Own, a new book about life after foster care wins award. From Jim Casey Youth Initiatives site:

“On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System” is a winner of the Pro Humanitate Literary Award, North America’s premier literary award for the field of child welfare. The book was written by Martha Shirk, a former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and Gary Stangler, executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.

Bestowed by the Center for Child Welfare Policy of the North American Resource Center for Child Welfare, the award recognizes literary works that “exemplify the intellectual integrity and moral courage required to transcend political and social barriers to promote “best practice‿ in the field of child welfare,‿ according to Ronald C. Hughes, director of the center.

Another book, “Children in Foster Care,‿ by James G. Barber and Paula H. Delfabbro, tied with “On Their Own‿ for the 2005 Daniel Douglas Schneider Book Award and Prize. The two books were selected by a panel of peers. The awards ceremony will take place September 30 at the Child Welfare League of America’s New England Regional Training & National Child Care and Development Conference in Providence, R.I.

“On Their Own‿ (Westview Press, 2004) puts a human face on a largely invisible population. Shirk and Stangler tell the story through the lives of ten children who did not have a safety net once they were out of foster care but relied on survival skills. With a foreword by former President Jimmy Carter, the book also offers solutions, especially about education, health care, and employment.

Here’s the review from Booklist:

Foster care is designed to provide for children up until the age of 18, but what happens after that? Shirk and Stangler note in the introduction to their study that in today’s society, young people don’t tend to reach full maturity until their mid-twenties, and most children leaving foster care aren’t even equipped with the basic tools (a high-school diploma, a driver’s license or state ID, work experience) the average 18-year-old possesses. Shirk and Stangler examined several individual cases in various states to see how well the children faired. One chapter examines three brothers whose fates diverged: one is currently in jail for armed robbery, another died in a car crash, and the third is happily married with a new business. One young woman makes it through a series of foster homes and high schools to earn a hard-won college degree and a position as a teacher, while one young man yearns for a family but keeps running afoul of the law. Jimmy Carter provides the forward for this important and often heart-wrenching book. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

From the Foreword by President Jimmy Carter
“‘On Their Own’ is a must-read account… for all Americans who care about children.”

— President Jimmy Carter

House Bills Cuts Millions to Foster Care PLEASE TAKE ACTION!

Write your Senators, urging them to REJECT the budget reconciliation bill. Already passed in the House, the bill would ultimately cut $23.6 Million in funding to California’s foster system. Most of that money would end financial support to relatives caring for foster children who would otherwise be placed with strangers. Many of these relatives, often grandparents, are on fixed incomes and would not have the financial means to care for the children without the standard foster care support.
Please read the Chronicle Editorial and write to your Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer:

Attention Knitters and Knitting Circles!

Pick Up Some Warm Red Yarn and Knit Scarves for Foster Youth! The Orphan Foundation of America is coordinating Valentine’s Day Care Packages for foster youth in colleges across the country. They need 2,500 hand-knitted or crocheted red scarves to include in the care packages. I don’t know how to knit, but I recruited my mom and picked up some yarn today.
OFA states: “It is estimated that some 13,000 former foster kids are attending colleges and universities this year, most without any family support. They are success stories merely by showing up: Studies show that less than 50 percent of foster youth graduate from high school, and less than 10 percent go on to post-secondary or vocational training.”
Become a part of this national effort to send a LOUD and CLEAR message that we care about our nation’s foster children.
To help get you started, here some links to on-line yarn and knitting stores:

Youth-Led Emancipation Support Center Opens in Napa

Eight Napa teens start their own youth-led service center to help emancipating foster youth transition to life on their own.
Wow, I’m impressed with their drive and quick results.
These youth want to be an example to their peers…. well they’re a fabulous example to adults working in Child Welfare and non-profits too! Way to go!
I’m going to call about getting a tour at their facility and will post more soon.

A Home for the Holidays TV Special

Mark Your Calendars! Dec. 21 on CBS… The Dave Thomas Foundation and the Children’s Action Network present the Seventh Annual A Home for the Holidays TV Special, all about the joys of adoption.

The Dave Thomas Foundation website says:
This year, on Wednesday, December 21, “A Home for the Holidays” will once again feature well-known celebrities and performers in a variety of roles. They will touch our hearts by sharing their perspective on the joys of adoption. Each year the program features such stars as Faith Hill, Melissa Etheridge, Creed, Usher, Vanessa Carlton, Ellen DeGeneres, Martin Sheen, Sela Ward, Rene Russo, Stevie Wonder, Jamie Foxx, Sheryl Crow, Dustin Hoffman, Scott Hamilton and Mariah Carey.

“A Home for the Holidays” also features stories of families created by adoption, as well as the faces of children who are waiting to join loving, permanent homes.

I haven’t seen it in previous years but will watch this time.

Also of note, through this Dave Thomas Foundation website and Macy*s, you can order a special edition of a Christopher Radko ornament “Celebrating Adoption”

Oakland Spotlights Children Waiting For Adoption

Alameda County recently sponsored the 10th Annual Calling Out of Names of Waiting Children. The event, covered by CBS 5, called attention to all the local youth waiting for their own Forever Family. I’ll check with Alameda County to see about matches made this year. Last year, I spoke with a woman who was connected with two young sisters. I’m going to follow up with her and see if the girls’ adoption has since been finalized. What a happy story.

New Foster Care Committee Meets

A few posts ago, I wrote about Karen Bass in our State Congress who is now heading up a new task force on foster care. Yesterday, the Chronicle printed a story about the very first meeting of the Select Committee on Foster Care. The article also lists contact information for all State Assembly people currently on this foster care committee. If you care about kids, please keep this contact info somewhere handy. There may come a time when you may feel inclined to write to your Congressperson.

Exceptionally Qualified Couple Can’t Be Foster Parents, Guess Why.

A lesbian couple – with extensive experience working with abused and neglected children – wants to parent a special-needs child in Missouri but the state’s Dept. of Social Services denies them.
My response (besides “What the…?!”) is:
“Hey Lisa and Dawn, please, move to California! We’d love to have you take care of one of the 80,000 kids in our system here. And we’re opened-minded!”

A Foster-Care Focus

Cross your fingers! There’s someone in State Congress who really cares. Karen Bass, D-Baldwin Vista (Los Angeles County) has requested a Select Committee on Foster Care to make the 80,000 kids in foster care a state priority. The Chronicle’s editorial explains all about it, but the most important part of the whole editorial is the second to last paragraph, pasted here:

“Those on the committee should remember that they — as much as every resident of California — bear responsibility for these children.”

I totally agree! And I commend the Chronicle on saying so (again!) and keeping foster kids in the forefront of California’s social issues. Unfortunately, when you mention foster care, it seems most people jump to blame and complain…. about the system, the foster families, the kids, the money, the resources, the birth parents, social workers, courts, lawyers, schools, government, and on and on. If everyone spent as much time doing something positive instead of talking trash, things might look different.

Time for my favorite Quincy Jones quote:

“Imagine what a harmonious world it could be if every single person, both young and old, shared a little of what he is good at doing.”

What are you good at doing?