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Posts Tagged ‘Heather McNama’

Today, I wanted to share a recent blog post about an outstanding organization, Kidsave, dedicated “to create change – so forgotten orphanage and foster kids grow up in families and connected to caring adults.” The blog was written by two talented and inspiring women, Nancy Nyman and Heather McNama, “two chicks just trying to build a family.”  They have been on a journey to foster/adopt a child/children and have chronicled this emotionally difficult process sprinkling it with gentle and side splitting humor.  My heart races with each post and I marvel at how their hope and humor remain strongly in tact within the bureaucracy of the process. You can read their remarkable blog at TwoGirls Unleashed.

Kidsave  – Posted June 28, 2011 by TwoGirls Unleashed

Note: the names/identities/details of the foster children, foster parents and social workers have been changed to protect their identities

Emilio was getting close to aging out of the foster care system.  Having been taken from his family at 10 months old, he’d lived in over 25 foster homes.  Some treated him like family, some merely met his basic needs, and none wanted to adopt him.  Six months before his 18th birthday, he sat down with his social worker and learned about the grim realities confronting him.  Once 18, he’d be on his own (Note:  the age for termination of foster care services has since been changed to 21).

Having moved so many times and with no steady help from an adult, Emilio had fallen behind in school.  So college wasn’t really in the cards.  He would need to find a job and a place to live.  He’d have to rely on the staff of his current group home to help him coordinate after-school rides to Social Services in order to take advantage of the meager resources available to him, to work on his resume, and to fill out job and housing applications.

The irony:  society expected Emilio to create permanency for himself, despite the fact that the system had failed to provide him with any semblance of permanency in 17+ years.

Emilio had seen plenty of his foster brothers and sisters age out.  He’d witnessed the anxiety and stress and worry of having no place to go.  Upwards of 40% of foster children will end up homeless, which means former foster children have now overtaken veterans as the single largest population in our state’s homeless shelters.

Emilio could see his future.  He’d  heard about how groups of former foster kids would huddle up in the dried-up bed of the L.A. River to sleep, taking turns keeping watch; how many of them turned to crime and prostitution for money; and how some of them just disappeared.

Photo courtesy of Alejandra Reyes @ http://www.fillingtheframe.com

The foster care system, originally built on good intentions, removes children from their biological families in situations of abuse and neglect.  But so often the solution – the foster experience – is just as bad (and sometimes worse) than the original problem.

Statistics show that once a child turns six, his chances of getting adopted drop dramatically.  At 12 or 13, adoption is nearly impossible.  When a child reaches 16, who cares? 

These are the forgotten children.  They live in foster and group homes, and they attend school.   But their journey from foster care to the streets is hidden from view:  an exit paycheck from the state; a list of housing they may or may not be able to afford; a draft of a resume.  But no home base, other than a shelter.  No place to go at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  No social worker to call.  And no one to celebrate their birthday.

Enter Kidsave.  Specializing in ages 9 and up, Kidsave serves to create connections for older children in the foster care system.  With adoption as the ultimate goal, the organization strives to match each child in its program with a caring adult who will provide mentorship and advocacy and a steady relationship.

It works like this…  We start attending Kidsave monthly events (next one is July 10th) and meet the Kidsave kids (and maybe make a connection).  We go through a brief training that includes mentorship and advocacy, and when we are ready, Kidsave will work to match us with a child.

But wait!  This is different than the agency we worked with before in that Kidsave is NOT a foster/adoptive agency.  They are a nonprofit org that works to create long-lasting connections for kids.  So when we’re matched, we’ll hang out with our Kidsave kid twice a month – help with homework, introduce her/him to our peeps (all of you!), advocate for permanency, and basically serve as a strong, consistent, hopefully-lifelong connection.  If there’s a prospective family interested in adopting our Kidsave kid, we’ll help wherever needed.    But the point is to be a connection.  If WE’RE interested in adopting our Kidsave kid, and if our Kidsave kid is interested in being adopted by us (older kids actually have a say), we’ll get our foster/adoptive license through the county and adopt the child.

So…  We don’t typically include a call to action in our blog as this is a journey we’ve chosen to take.  But if you’re looking for a way make your personal difference in the world, please consider getting involved with Kidsave – whether it’s a donation or sharing their link or volunteering for an event, this org is crazy-awesome.

Sadly, Emilio’s social worker never referred him to Kidsave.  Instead, he aged out of the system without an adult role model, without a positive connection, without a mentor.  Determined to create a life for himself despite his circumstances, he applied to job after job after job, but with no experience and poor grades, he never made the final cut.  Unable to afford a place to live, and with shelters full, Emilio began to sleep on the street.  He had no place to shower, no way to keep his interview clothes clean, thus his dream of creating permanency for himself faded away.

Desperate to survive, Emilio took the only job he could get – he became a runner for a local drug dealer.  Emilio is currently serving time for possession with intent to sell. 

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