Support System for Foster Care Alumni
by: Pat Hernandez, February 8, 2010 5:02:00 am
There are nearly 200-thousand youth 13 years and older in the foster care system in America. Each year, more than 25-thousand young people who age out of care never find a permanent family of their own.
"My story is: I was rather small and young. I'm a product of a failed abortion."
Dean Cannon was one pound, 12-ounce preemie, who spent the first three months of his life in the hospital after his mother overdosed on anti-malarial drugs. He spent 6-months in foster care and was eventually adopted by one
family. He's now a pediatrician in Houston and works with children in foster care. He's also an active member of Foster Care Alumni of America.
"To know that someone would take the time to see me and to love me and treat me like a human being, despite the fact that I'm a foster kid is what motivates me and drives me."
Meet Vanessa Dews. She's a social worker in a Houston clinic with families and children with various disorders. She entered foster care in Austin when she was eight because of domestic violence and her mother's alcoholism.
"I was scared you know. I wanted to be with my mom. I didn't care you know. Eventually, the stage went to anger. My anger then turned to my mom because I was just like, now wait a minute here. You're still with him, because the stipulation was if she got away from him then she could have me back. Well, she never did that. So then I got angry because I felt like she chose him over me."
Misty Stenslie: "Research shows that for the most part, parents who abuse or neglect their children, have chemical dependency problems or, they have mental health problems. And both of those things were definitely true in my family."
Misty Stenslie is deputy director of Foster Care Alumni of America. Her life in the system was a study in constant change and transition. She considers herself fortunate though.
"As an adult, I was able to go to college and eventually graduate school. I've had a happy career. I've built a marriage and life for myself that I'm really proud of. But, having been in foster care and never having found a family, continues to haunt me in a lot of ways."
She helped write the book FLUX. Its about the emotional journey from foster care to adulthood.
"We need to make sure that people from foster care have the same kinds of opportunities and privileges that people who come from more traditional family backgrounds have, so that they can help young people explore who they are, what they're interested in, what their options are."
More information on Foster Care Alumni of America can be found at www.FosterCareAlumni.org, and for the chapter in Texas at www.fostercarealumni.org/FCAA_chapters/TXChapter.htm.