After watching the movie The Blind Side, a movie based on a prolific true story about a African American young man whose mother was a drug user and he lived in the projects. A Caucasian family took interest in him becoming his legal guardians and groomed him to be one of the best players in the NFL.
After seeing the movie about Michael, I was bought to think about how many other Michaels there are in the world that comes from broken and/or dysfunctional homes. It was personal for me, as my little brother, who many would consider a very blessed young man, straight A’s, football and basketball. Even made it to “Whose Who”…My little brother is an example not an exemption. Although both my brothers and I were raised in a single parented home. I think about those who are like my brothers best friend Gerry, who does not have either parent…no mother nor a father.
Over the years after my parents marriage, I often times reflect on my father, him as a man and him as my father. His faults and the lessons I have learned from growing up with out him fully present in my life. As a young lady…it’s hard, creating basically a skeptical cynic from birth about life, love and relationships. Being a child on the receiving end of broken relationships…it’s tough. Yet, I am happy I had one parent even if the other messed up!
What about those living with no parents? Could you have live on your own 12 or 15? Each year, thousands of young people “age out” of the foster care system, many without family or economic supports. Without connection to a caring adult and support to plan and prepare, these youth face steep challenges, including higher rates of unemployment, poor educational attainment, health issues, incarceration, and homelessness.
When I first met my little brother friend, Gerry, who lives in foster care with six other foster children, now brothers and sisters, mother and father…where there was none before. I know Gerry has it hard. He said to me one day, “Ms. Fareeda, you should adopt…adopt a boy”…kind of threw me off, and after looking into his life a little deeper I begin to see why he said what he said….He was looking for a chance or to give someone else a chance and an opportunity at life.
Although a well, soft hearted, mild mannered very caring young man, who I come to love as my little brother…I learned that Gerry’s living conditions in foster care are no better than if he would be living in a shelter, alone…He has trouble in school. Even as a teen, he urinates on himself, and wreaks sometimes where my family and I have to make him wash up, and provide him new socks and under garments. He cannot help his situation. Not only has he lived in the refuse…the other children do as well. It breaks my heart. Gerry is a good kid and could very well be a great man. The young mind is so impressionable.
My point with this blog entry…how are these children being prepared for life? And what programs are people are tapping that potential?
In school, behaviorally and academically they are just passed along so teachers do not have to deal with them. The movie bought to light a scary reality for many children who reside within the walls, and subways of Philadelphia streets, a real reality for those children who live within the shelter and the foster system and are still not getting adequate care….
“Approximately 3,000 children come into out-of-home care in Philadelphia each year. Many of these children are placed in temporary foster care while the family and social workers work together to build upon a family’s existing strengths, address concerns, and when at all possible, reunite the children with their family in a safe, loving home.
Unfortunately, this is not always possible, and it is sometimes necessary to find another permanent placement option for a child – in many situations this means adoption.”(1)
Unfortunately every homeless and parentless child cannot be brought about like the movie. Gerry lives in conditions that groom him for doom. What is up with the foster system? Are there provisions in place to make sure foster parents are not just collecting checks from the government and actually taking care of the Gerry’s of the world? I’m not a parent yet after learning more about him, I am inclined to help others who are like him and live like him. Is the foster system preparing or breeding individuals for prison? Is the foster system flawed or are the folks adopting many children abusers of the system?
We know all children have aspirations, strengths and talents, and the potential to become fully participating citizens who contribute in a range of fields. Yet, the main challenges facing young people in foster care and in the welfare system are: (1) the culture of low expectations for those in care and (2) the lack of accountability or real motivation for success or failure. A principle challenge is changing the thinking and current practices prevent many from taking on individual responsibility for preparing for a future of successful independence.
Until that happens, most young people coming out of the foster care will not be prepared for college and meaningful careers. Too many will continue to end up homeless, jobless, and incarcerated, without the resources they need to become successful adults. The fate of these children depends wholly on the goodwill of the community and their personal ability to persevere.
Life, Liberty and Neighborhoods First!