It sounds paradoxical, even disturbing, to say that living in foster care as a child could be a source of inspiration. For most of us, the thought of a child growing up in foster care, separated from their family, evokes a picture of sadness and loneliness. Some people perceive children in foster care as “problem children”, placed in foster care because they were out of control. Still others see foster children as facing a very limited future, without hope of being successful in the adult world without the connections and support of a family network.
In spite of the odds stacked against them, many people who have spent time in foster care grow up to be very successful. Country artist Jimmy Wayne, with three top ten hits under his belt, is on his way to super stardom. Jimmy grew up in and out of the foster care system. At the recent national conference for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates), Jimmy shared his story with audience. He recalled as a teenager, his mother letting him out of the car they had been living in and driving away, leaving him homeless. He credits an elderly couple with taking him in and turning his life around. He has taken that inspiration of helping others to a new level. Wayne started Project MMH (Meet Me Halfway), an effort to focus awareness on the plight of teens leaving the system without resources. As part of this project, in 2010 Wayne completed a solo walk across the country, from Nashville, TN to Phoenix, AZ.
There is a long list of famous people who spent some part of their lives in foster care: Daunte Culpepper, NFL Quarterback; Dan O’Brien, Olympic Gold Medalist; John Lennon, musician; Marilyn Monroe, movie star; Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Computer and Pixar Studios; and many more.* These individuals demonstrate the inner source of strength and commitment that can result from overcoming adversity.
May, as National Foster Month, is a time for reflection about the high rates of abuse and neglect that bring these children into the foster care system. South Carolina had 5,369 children in foster care as of June 30, 2009.* As shocking as that may be, it is probably understated, as we know that many more abuse cases go unreported. As citizens of this state, we have a chance to help these young people who have suffered at the hands of their own families. Instead of feeling powerless at the formidable numbers of children involved, we can make a choice to be involved, one child at a time.
There are many ways for individuals to make a difference in the lives of foster children in their community. One such opportunity is the volunteer Guardian ad Litem Program. As a volunteer, you will become the advocate for a child in foster care, giving them a voice in their future, and empowering them to choose a successful path. Together, we can give these young people hope for a better future.
To learn more about the individuals mentioned, visit www.fosterclub.com/famous. To learn more about becoming a volunteer Guardian ad Litem, visit www.scgal.org for local county information, or call 1-800-277-0113.