Editor’s Note: I asked noted author, former foster youth and miltary veteran Capri Cruz if she could sitdown with an up and coming talent in foster care named Dr. Jamie Schwandt. Dr. Schwandt is a Speaker, former foster youth and current active military.
I thought the two could talk about Jamie’s time in care, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of a life in the military. The following is an excerpt from that interview.
Capri: I’m so excited to interview you. I was talking to Chris who is the publisher of Foster Focus magazine and I’m honored that he asked me to interview you because we’re both military: I’m prior military and you’re currently in the military. He thought it would be right neat for us to chitchat with one another about what’s going on in the military and how we can use the military as a platform to advance and help foster children if they want to go in that career field; how they can use it as a platform for them to move on in life. So before we get to how the military can be used by and with foster children to advance their life, because it helped me and maybe it’s helped you because you have tremendous success and we’re going to talk about that because the military is a primary agent of that (success) and it was for me too.
Prior to us getting to that I want to talk about who Jamie Schwandt is and why am I interviewing you today? Who are you Jamie?
Jamie: Well, I have quite a few different roles. I am a Captain in the United States Army reserves, and as you mentioned I am an Army reserve soldier but I’m one of the few that have gone active on reserve, so I’m active-duty working for the reserves. It’s kind of confusing when talking to people but I am an Army reserve soldier but it’s my full-time job. I’m in a transition phase right now. I’m moving from Washington, DC to Kansas with my family. I’m also an author. I wrote and published Succeeding as a Foster Child back in October, and I’ll talk about my book here in a while. I’m also a motivational speaker for foster children, foster parents, foster professionals, and really anyone who will listen to me.
And I have a beautiful family that I’m moving from Washington, DC to Kansas. We’re from Kansas and were very excited to be moving back. My beautiful wife Tommi Schwandt. We welcomed a new born baby girl into the world in October, Katherine Schwandt, and of course I can’t forget my two well behaved dogs. But I’m a strategic planner and Captain in the Army. I work out of two locations currently. I work out of the Washington, DC area: Fort Belvore, Virginia area and the Pentagon. I’ve been in the Army reserves for 16 years and I have 9 active duty years so I have 11 more to go to get to the retirement that you just received a few years ago Capri.
And I love every minute of it. You mentioned the military was instrumental to your success and the military is my success. It’s so instrumental to it and later on I want to get into how the foster care system prepared me for life in the military. But again I wrote a book based on research I did in my doctrine program at Kansas State University, the greatest university in the world, Go Wild Cats! And I did my research on the foster care system. I wanted to find out how a foster child can succeed when all the statistics show that they will fail. So I found 15 former foster children who were enrolled in a college program. It could’ve been a vocational school, a four-year program, a community college, a two-year program, whatever, but they had to meet certain criteria and I ended up coming up with 10 themes. I used those 10 themes as a foundation for my book, “Succeeding as a Foster Child: A Roadmap to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Success”, and I believe that’s the reason you’re talking to me Capri. I know that was a mouthful.
Capri: Yesssssss, oh my gosh I completely understand why Chris put us together for this interview. We have a lot in common even more than just the military, like our PhDs…Is yours qualitative or quantitative?
Jamie: Definitely qualitative. I’m not a numbers guy.
Capri: Right, right. And that’s the best anyway when you want to talk to people. And I did qualitative also. I narrowed my data down to three themes. You had ten themes. So we have a lot in common and it’s so exciting to speak with you today. It’s an honor. Thank you so much for doing this interview.
Jamie: No, thank you.
Capri: Yes, that was a mouthful. You’re amazing. You’re absolutely amazing. So since it is a lot to go over, let’s put it into some themes. Since we have a basis of who you are I want to talk a little bit about your upbringing. Let’s build up into the foster care system, then we can move from foster care into the military and how that transition went for you. And then, what you know about the military and how it can help foster children either career wise, personality wise, or developmental wise. And then we’ll definitely talk about your book and the amazing projects you’re working on. And oh my gosh, you’re in the middle of moving homes, back to Kansas, so there’s lots to talk about today. I’m very, very excited.
Okay, so let’s start with your upbringing. Do you mind? What would you like us to know about how Jamie either ended up in for the care, transitioned out of foster care, and your experiences in for foster care. Tell us a little bit about those things.
Jamie: Yeah, I’ll start with my life before foster care and as you mentioned my upbringing. I have a younger brother and we were placed in foster care together and our lives before foster care, we truly grew up in a life that was destined for failure. Our parents were severely depressed. They were addicted to drugs and alcohol, and they made poor decisions, one after another.
I’ll share with you some stories about the horrible situations our mother put us in. A lot of them are trailer stories, so hopefully people reading the magazine won’t get offended by me using trailer stories. I just grew up and had a lack of bad experiences in them. But I remember one specific story pretty clearly. I was in between 8 and 10 years of age and my mother brought me and my younger brother to a trailer in a small town in Kansas. It’s a great community but we didn’t participate in the greatness of the community. And our mother brought us to this trailer and we had never been to this specific trailer before and it was very dirty and I remember walking in and I remember seeing people sitting in the living room. I recognized maybe a couple of my mother’s drug buddies and they were injecting themselves with needles, doing all sorts of horrible stuff. I remember walking into the bathroom of this trailer and it was difficult to walk around because there were needles on the floor.
I remember another story my relatives told me about when I was in my early 20’s. My parents were living in another trailer in a small town, north west or north central Kansas, it was literally out in the middle of nowhere, that’s what I love by the way, I’m a small-town guy, the opposite of you Capri.