Archive for June 2008

Never Met my Parents, Physically Abused, Step Father Raped Me

June 25, 2008

STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet James Robinson, 18 years in and out of foster care, never adopted.

“Never met my parent’s. Don’t know anything about them. I aged out. I never did get adopted. I’m not exactly sure 100% why. But I do know out of 1,972 different foster homes (he claims he lived in), 1764 of them I was physically abused. Out of that much, it was only four homes I was molested.”

“A case worker of mine in New York told me, my dad had never appeared in the hospital and my mother had just left and never returned. And I believe someone was trying to fight for custody for me and that’s my step father, James Robinson. What got me in trouble is my step father had raped me 37 hours in less than six hours.”

He says his step father dropped him and his half brother Lewis at DYFS in New Jersey.

“DYFS sucks man, that’s all I can say. DYFS really sucks.”

James clearly remember his past in a way that helps him to cope with his present. He admits to years of therapy and embellishes every aspect of his life. What is the truth? Probably no one really knows. The present truth is that he is a young homeless man with a lifetime history of foster care, physical and sexual abuse, abandonment and despair.

His future? Only he can change that. James currently lives at Covenant House New Jersey

Care Givers, Covenant House – Miss Janette “Trash Cans Are For Trash”

June 25, 2008

STORIES FROM CARE GIVERS OF HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Janette Scrozzo, Outreach Liaison, Covenant House New Jersey – Crisis Center

Covenant House New Jersey Outreach Liaison Janette Scrozzo

“We house 45 young people from the ages of 18-22. Our kids come through our door, a lot of them aged out DYFS kids, they come from sexually abused and physically abused homes situations. Many of our kids are gang affiliated.”

“They come to us because they have no place else to go so our doors are open 24/7.”

“We provide them with the immediacy, food, shelter, clothing.”

As Janette walks through the halls of Covenant House’s Crisis Center she greets the kids with the love of a mother giving them hugs and encouragement but also dispensing discipline, “No do-rags inside. You know the rules. Pull your pants up, respect yourself.” She turns to me, “We treat them with respect but they have to learn to respect themselves as well. Only then will others show them respect.”

I know they go back to doing what they want when I walk away but they have to learn. “Get off the garbage can. Garbage cans are for garbage. You’re not garbage. Get off the garbage can.”

Premature Birth, Mentally Ill Mother – Fifty Foster Homes

June 25, 2008

STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Johnathan Norman Hughes, born at 6 1/2 months to a mentally ill mother. DHS – Children’s Protective Services in Michigan removed him from his mother after his sister reported neglect. After living in more than fifty foster homes, he ran away from his last foster home at sixteen years old. He says, not once did the police, his case worker or foster parents come looking for him. “If she (foster parent) reported me, then she wouldn’t get the money no more. She didn’t report me. She got the money and I didn’t want to be there and that’s a fair trade. She got what she wanted and I got what I wanted. She wanted free money without the responsibility and I wanted to be the heck away from this place. We both got what we wanted.”

At seventeen, Johnathan was emancipated from the foster care system. “Until you can learn to live with yourself, you can’t live with nobody else. Especially when you’re young and out there on your own with no support, no family, no motivation.

He’s lived in Covenant Houses in Michigan, New York City, Newark and California. Myspace.com is “100% useful to me. You can be homeless and still have an email. You can be homeless and still have a life. Just because you’re not financially, doesn’t mean you’re not socially, doesn’t mean you’re not mentally, doesn’t meant you’re not physically. I was still breathing, I wanted to meet people, I wanted to socialize and myspace is a way to do that.”

“I believe myspace is valuable to anyone who wants to be realized, anybody who wants to be known, anybody who wants anyone to find them. Myspace is the best way. Myspace is the best way to be found.”

He’ll probably be at Covenant House another two weeks. “I can’t stay. I can’t. I can’t. Cause, it’s like, and if you read about the indigo children, it’s like I’m searching for something. Something big is coming. Like I said, I don’t know how I’d be if I was with my real mother but right now I’m where I want to be.

Interviewed on the streets of Newark during a night of Outreach to the community.

Victim of Child Neglect & Malnutrition – Days Away From Dying

June 25, 2008

STORIES FROM HOMELESS FORMER FOSTER CHILDREN:

Meet Willie Jacovra Harden, a victim of child neglect & malnutrition. DYFS removed him from his mother who was neglecting and starving him. He says doctors told his grandmother that he was days away from dying of malnutrition.

DYFS removed him from his mother and placed him in kinship care with his grandmother but never closed his case. There was also sexual abuse by his stepfather. He lived with his grandmother until 18 years old. His DYFS caseworker told him about a program, Urban Youth Development Corporation, a program for transitional living.

http://www.uydc.org/

Their mission:

Our mission is to implement, advocate for, train, and provide technical assistance to programs geared towards youth ages 5-24 years old and parents.  Our programs are all research-based models formatted developmentally correct, cognizant of their impact on children and their families, foster clear beliefs and standards, offer opportunities and skill building to participants, and recognize the accomplishments of youth so that healthy behaviors can be adopted by participants; thus making a substantial impact on communities, families, and children.  The primary issues the agency addresses are problematic teen behaviors, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, school failure, violence, juvenile delinquency, and homelessness.

He was 18 years old, his case was closed and soon after he was thrown out of the program for behavioral issues ending up homeless. He found out about Covenant House and is living there now.

Interviewed on the streets of Newark during a night of Outreach to the community.

Heart Gallery of New Jersey – Aging Out

June 18, 2008

While building towards a comprehensive thesis on “aging out” I’ve been weaving my way from the Heart Gallery’s premise, professional photographers donating their time taking photographers of children in foster care in New Jersey, believing that those photographs would draw interest from prospective families.

That’s been true from day 1. More than 25 million hits on our web site:

www.heartgallerynj.org

Thousands of email inquiries and phone calls to 1.800.99.adopt from people reaching out to help and adopt these kids. More than 130 kids adopted and still more adoptions to be finalized. This is what we dreamed of but never fully comprehended how great the impact would be. Our first shoot of more than 350 kids took place in 2005 with the second shoot in 2007, the “100 Waiting Children”.

The “100 Waiting Children” project, spotlighting those orphans who have been in dyfs foster care the longest, sparked the interest in “aging out”, kids turning 18 without ever having been adopted.

After spending the past two weeks at Covenant House and Raphael’s Life House, I’m seeing statistics and white papers on aging out played out in real life.

Approximately 20,000 youths nation wide age out of foster care each year. According to Mark Courtney, “With the exception of incarcerated youth, foster youth are the only group that is involuntarily separated from their families through government intervention. “

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FACTS

  1. 37% of foster youth aged 17–20 had not completed high school degree
    or received a GED.
  2. They more often suffer from mental health problems.
  3. They more often become involved in crime or are victims of crime.
  4. They are more frequently homeless

1 On Your Own without a Net: The Transition to Adulthood for Vulnerable Populations, edited by D. Wayne Osgood, E. Michael Foster,
Constance Flanagan, and Gretchen Ruth, is forthcoming, University of Chicago Press in fall 2005. The volume is a product of the Network on
Transitions to Adulthood, funded by the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation (www.transad.pop.upenn.edu).


2 F. Wulczyn and K Hislop, “Children in Substitute Care at Age 16: Selected Findings from Multistate Data Archive” (Chicago: Chapin Hall
Center for Children at the University of Chicago, 2001).

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A lot of the kids at Covenant House have mental health problems. Hard to know how much of what they are telling me is the truth or just what they think the truth should be. The majority have no high school diploma, encounter problems with the law, are homeless and move from shelter to shelter. Without a place like Covenant House and the life learning programs they offer, I cannot imagine where these children would be.

This project has to focus on FOUR aspects.

  1. Covenant House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths
  2. Integrity House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths with drug and/or alcohol addiction
  3. Rafael’s Life House – Homeless “Aged Out” youths who are unwed mother
  4. Caregivers, counselors, advisor’s and others who mentor and help these youths

Jamillah and her Son

June 18, 2008

Homeless, unwed mother and former foster child Jamillah with her three month old son at Raphael’s Life House, transitional housing for homeless, pregnant women and babies, when born.

Jamillah, Aged Out, Homeless, Unwed – Raphael’s Life House

June 18, 2008

Made my first trip to Raphael’s Life House, transitional housing for homeless, pregnant women and their babies.

http://www.raphaelslifehouse.org/

MEET Jamillah Williams and her three month old son, who has been living at Raphael’s Life House for several months.

Former foster child, aged out and homeless, now living at Raphael\'s Life House

According to Jamillah:

  • Her father sexually and physically abused her from age 5 to age 16
  • At age 16 she went to the social worker at her high school and told her story about her father’s abusive relationship. The worker called police/dyfs who took Jamillah and subsequently her two siblings and put them in dyfs custody
  • Says her father was an unregistered sexual predator who is currently in jail
  • Her biological mother is living in a shelter with her younger sister and her brother is living in a separate shelter

She’s unclear as to whether she was ever “legally free” for adoption. She “aged out” of foster care although has not signed herself out of the dyfs system ensuring her services until she’s 21 years old.

She seems to be advocating for herself in terms of receiving services. She has a CASA – court appointed special advocate – who she calls for legal advice but says that no dyfs worker has ever advised her as to any service or assistance that might be available to her.

One of the really interesting parts of the three hour audio taped interview was learning about how foster and homeless kids communicate with each other. My Space seems to be a lifeline. They used it to keep in touch with biological family members as well as other foster kids they meet as they move from home to home. Somehow they seem to always have internet access and utilized My Space as a way of updating each other.

Many also have cell phones cards with minutes to use the phone since they have no credit and cannot get an account.

I need to explore the whole idea of using My Space to track each other.