They Don’t Make No Award For That
“What else should I be? All apologies” ~Nirvana
I came of age in the 90’s, the whole thing. In the early nineties I scrapped my Def Leopard shirts for flannels. In the mid-nineties I found Biggie and
Tupac and my clothes went from grunge to Karl Kani. And in the late 90’s I bounced around from DMX to Dave Matthews to whatever Nelly song
The one constant in my life, like a lot of other people, has always been music.
If you had my cassettes (Yes, cassettes! Kids, a cassette is like a digital playlist, minus the digital part and all the pizazz. You popped that in a
Walkman, that’s like a manual IPod, and that’s how we listen to music) you would think I lived the same life as every other American kid. For the
most part I did. I had friends, went to school events, I even had some girlfriends. The only difference between me and every other kid around me
was where we called home.
“You wanna see the inside? I’ll see ya later!” ~Notorious B.I.G.
My friends all went back to their houses, talked back to their parents and locked themselves in their rooms. I went back to my foster home.
“Oh, I am so Homesick. But it ain’t that bad. ‘Cause I’m homesick for the home I never had.”
I lived a pretty normal life until I was about fourteen. Through a bit of bad luck and issues at home I found myself in foster care, where I would
remain until I aged out (Got too old for the state to take look out for me) at nineteen. I lucked out though. After only a couple moves I found a good
family who I would stay with until it was time to leave care.
“Cause you can't feel my ANGER. You can't feel my pain. You can't feel my torment. Driving me insane. I can't fight these feelings they bring only
I was a firecracker when I came into care. I was mad. I was mad I was there. Mad that my friends weren’t. Mad that my little brother wasn’t. Mad that I
had to change schools. Mad that my life wasn’t normal anymore.
I had the good fortune to be placed with a quality set of foster parents. My first night in their home I was brought to the kitchen table and seated. My
new foster dad was a firm, older man who looked like a cross between Santa Claus and Kenny Rogers. He spoke slowly with a purpose.
“Because of the hand you’ve been dealt, because of the situation you find yourself in, you are going to have to work three times harder than
everyone else in the room from here on out.”
“Was it my fault? Something I did?” ~ DMX
They explained to me that like most of the 400,000 kids in foster care each year in this country played little to no part in ending up in care. They
were neglected, abused, maybe their parents died or maybe they just had parents who weren’t willing to keep them. Those two sweet older foster
parents of mine would go on to show me that foster care wasn’t a death sentence.
I didn’t have to become homeless, adding to the population of those in the street of which foster kids account for 50%. I could be a part of the 7% of
foster youth with an Associate’s degree or the 3% who get their Bachelor’s degree. I could boost those terrible numbers if I chose to. But it would
take me working three times harder than everyone else in the room.
“You won’t believe the things I’ve seen, far beyond your wildest dreams.” ~Spooks
They prepped me for life after care as best they could. They gave me a work ethic and confidence. The state was supposed to supply the rest.
They were supposed to teach me what happens after I left the home. Like a father, they were to show me how to start a bank account or how to get
an apartment. They were intended to make sure I didn’t get swallowed by the world when I left their wing of protection.
Didn’t quite happen that way though. Two weeks before graduation, aging out inevitably happened. Without an address I was expelled from school
for lack of proof that I was a student in the school district. I surfed couches, slept in a car or two until a friend’s mom took over.
“I 'm a creep, I 'm a weirdo. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here.” ~Radiohead
My friend’s mom picked me up, dusted me off and set me back on track. I grabbed my G.E.D. and was promptly enrolled in college. The thing about
being a foster kid is that you rarely have control of your life. Even though I had been so fortunate to have someone come in and help me out,
(foster kids lack a support system after care, it’s the number one reason we fail) I hated school, hated the schedule, the structure, the concept and
now I was going to pay for it?
I didn’t last too long. I made it long enough to know that the check from the Bursar’s office was the only part I enjoyed.
“I fell on black days.” ~Soundgarden
I left college with a lot of uncertainty. First of all I had nowhere to live…again. I found a job as a handyman and the property owner gave me a place
to stay. Above a puppy mill. Yeah, a puppy mill. Smell was horrific but it was good to be in from the cold.
The only thing you can take away from living above a puppy mill, besides fleas, is anger. I was mad again. Mad that I had to live above dog feces.
Mad that I couldn’t find work.
Most of all I was mad that there were no answers for me. There wasn’t even a place I could go to try to find the answers. I decided that when life
had some stability I would use that work ethic I learned in care to work three times harder than everyone else in the room to change that lack of
information about foster care.
“Take these chances. Place them in a box until a quieter time.” ~Dave Matthews Band
I found my way on my own. I met a girl who would become my wife. We created a family, first a boy then two girls would follow. I worked hard. I found
a good job that paid me based on how hard I worked. I worked harder.
But foster care never leaves your system. If you were unfortunate enough to have had any kind of trauma you would join the countless other former
foster kids with PTSD, we outnumber military vets in that department now.
I didn’t have the trauma but I never really grew up and care never really left me.
“Guess who’s back, back again?” ~Eminem
I joined a growing trend. I came back to foster care. There are a lot of us who do it too. They call us advocates, former foster youth or foster care
alumni. We’ve got a club and everything! FCAA, Foster Care Alumni of America is a driving force of former foster kids who work to ensure better
outcomes for our young foster brothers and sisters in care.
I came back to bring as much foster care news and information as I can to the people who need it.
So I made a magazine.
Foster Focus is the only monthly foster care magazine in the nation. Entering the fourth year, I’ve managed to create the number one source for
foster care news and information. I got the top names in the system to contribute articles each month to help those who work with today’s foster
youth. Top selling authors, CEOs of foundations and agencies, the best foster care trainers and advocates all call the pages of Foster Focus
home. I’ve got subscribers in every US state, as well as, Canada, India, New Zealand, England and Australia. Folks are paying attention.
The magazine isn’t a newsletter or the work of a good grant writer who found funding for a cool nonprofit venture. I worked three times harder than
everyone else in media. I stayed up countless nights. I made thousands of phone calls. I sold as many ads I could while still doing all the mag work
myself and working an eleven hour a day “real” job. I made it a business that worked so that someday another foster kid will get a big idea and work
three times harder than everyone else to make it a reality. I wanted to be the proof that he or she could pull it off on their own.
“I'm just tryna stay alive and take care of my people, And they don't have no award for that… $*it don't come with trophies, Ain't no envelopes to
open, I just do it cause I'm 'sposed to” ~Drake
I do all this, I work this hard, sacrifice this much, struggle like I do because I’m supposed to.
As a product of the foster care system that didn’t get swallowed by the world, it’s my JOB to make sure they walk an easier path than I and the
MILLIONS of former foster kids have walked.