on foster care issues:

I am Not Alone!

| May 15th, 2015

By Panny, East Carolina University

In college there are many times where I feel like I am often alone and have no one to turn to, especially during the moments where I feel lost and clueless about the direction of my life.

Although I have past experiences that I want to forget, I am also thankful for them. My past has led me to so many individuals and life changing events I never thought would have happened.

Once or twice every semester I am reminded that there is someone out there who does actually care and wants me to succeed in everything that I do. Many times I feel like I don’t have a family, but receiving care packages from individuals who take time out of their busy lives to prepare and send this package to me means more than I can ever say or express. Opening a box and being greeted by a simple letter or card with kind and uplifting words always puts a smile on my face and reminds me that I have a different kind of family—a family that is looking out for me from afar.

All items in the packages that I receive are used and shared with my roommates, which also ends up putting a smile on their faces.

The combination of care packages, support and advising from my coordinators and FC2S has changed my outlook on life. With all the encouraging words and help throughout the years, it has changed and encouraged me to get out there and become more involved with student organizations along with my community.

Knowing now that I am never alone and will always have a family in anything that I do helps me succeed in school and work on becoming someone more than I am today. I am truly thankful for everything that has happened because each experience has made me who I am today.

“The family is both the fundamental unit of society as well as the root of culture. It … is a perpetual source of encouragement, advocacy, assurance, and emotional refueling that empowers a child to venture with confidence into the greater world and to become all that he can be.”-Marianne E. Neifert, Dr. Mom’s Parenting Guide

 

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Daily Reminders that Someone Cares

| May 15th, 2015

By Torri, Missouri State University

My freshman year of college was a pretty stressful time as I balanced school and finding a job that fit my class schedule. I received my first care package around Valentine’s Day, which was the perfect time because I really needed a pick me up. There were chocolates, which I shared with my roommate; a red scarf, which kept me warm during that frigid winter; and a few other knick-knacks I placed on my desk.

Back then, I never took the time to consider where all of these cool gifts came from. Not only were they cool because they helped me stay warm and gave me and my roommate something to snack on, but these items meant a lot to me because of the fact that people took time out of their day to create such a box. They weren’t forced to create this care package, and they didn’t get any special recognition as the sender was anonymous.

I receive a box every semester, and now that I am older I think about these gifts more and more. A few semesters ago I got a season of the TV show Scrubs and I can remember all the nights my now husband and I stayed up laughing as we watched each episode. I’ve also received shampoo, a helpful gift for when money is tight, and a little magnetic notepad. The notepad included a magnet with an inspirational quote, which I still have on my refrigerator.

All of these gifts have not only proven to be useful, but have given me a daily reminder of what it is truly like to give to someone less fortunate.

This year, I had a strange feeling that something was missing during Christmas time. I couldn’t quite place my finger on it, but as I was trying to figure out what to buy my husband, a realization hit me: I was once one of those little kids who barely got anything for Christmas. I remember the embarrassment and disappointment I suffered around the holiday as I lied to my friends about what I got in order to cover up the fact that we were too poor to do anything. Reflecting on my past experiences, I felt the sudden urge to help children instead of exchanging gifts with my husband. He and I decided to devote all of our energy to giving kids the best Christmas possible. If someone can devote the time and energy to make hundreds of care packages for all of us youth, then surely we could also give back.

Through all of this, I glanced at the refrigerator and read the magnet I received long ago. It reads:

“One day, I decided to help wherever I could and it was almost like magic because I was exactly what the world needed everywhere I went.”

I never truly understood that message until then, and now that I do, I feel the urge to take on more volunteer projects and help wherever and whenever I can!

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A Connection to Strangers

| May 15th, 2015

By Josh, Syracuse University

When I sit and think on it, I still well up with emotion as I remember every care package I received from Orphan Foundation of America (OFA). Each package included a combination of items that somehow met all my needs as a college student.

The first thing I would usually notice was a card, which always had kind words and well wishes of emotional support and encouragement from the wonderful members of OFA.

Next I remember the goodies, like cookies, figs, and gummies. This was my favorite part at the time, because physical nourishment is such a basic need. When we give food or receive it from someone it shows we care and it shows commitment to the future. The care package was a way for OFA to say “We are invested in YOU, not just your grades and scholastic achievement; we care about YOU”.

Then there was always something practical; things, at the time, I didn’t realize I would use to this day. I got a shower bag, and a backpack I use for my bike. It was such a treasure! It was exciting to open the boxes and fantasize about how I would be using these items in the future.

Finally, I remember my red scarves; the second one I received has been most significant to me. There was a card attached with the name and a note from a girl in Illinois. She was in 7th grade and had handmade the scarf. I realized this girl had no idea who I was but she wanted to help me. For the first time, I let myself feel the comfort of being cared for and recognized that I don’t have to carry the load of my past alone. I felt both the pain of my past and the warm comfort of those seemingly strangers at OFA. Though they were strangers, we were connected with the idea of helping others who maybe don’t realize how much they need it.

Getting care packages gave me a feeling of being cared for and supported without the need for any return—something I lacked a lot growing up. To receive this important emotional support and validation was so significant during college that I couldn’t picture my experience without it.

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Birthday and Christmas All in One

| May 15th, 2015

James, University of South Carolina

In 2006, while attending Georgia Military College, I was accepted into the Orphan Foundation of America Scholarship Program (now called Foster Care to Success). I was so thrilled to receive the acceptance letter because I knew the scholarship would be an enormous help.

Not only was I awarded the scholarship for more than six years, I also received yearly care packages along with a few Walmart gift cards.

Wearing a big smile, I would meet the mailman at the front door every time the care packages were delivered. I felt like I got More than a Box because care packages were more than sweet goodies and hand-knitted fluffy scarves. Care packages were all the world to me. They were my hope, initially saving my life.

I remember mailing pages from my journal to myself just to get mail while on campus—but care packages changed all that. Care packages were my birthday gifts and Christmas presents. Those boxes meant knowing that the person who created the package truly cared for me because no one else sent me birthday cards, cookies, Christmas cards, book supplies, and other necessities.

Having received care packages over the years has inspired me to think those less fortunate. The continuous boxes inspired me to participate and volunteer in the ‘Relay for Life’ event while I attended the University of South Carolina. I walked for cancer research, and volunteers put together care packages for me. Now, isn’t that cool?

Over the years, I’ve been able to give some scarves away as gifts. Even though I don’t have them anymore, I still have warm memories of how those scarves felt around my neck during those cold chilly months. I saw them as fashionable & stylish with a blast of love.

I am truly grateful for my life and what my great future holds for me, and I am thankful for the people who are in my life helping me along the path to be self-sufficient. Thank you so much.

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More than Just an Energy Boost!

| May 15th, 2015

By Lacresha, Frostburg State University

Imagine moving into your dorm for the first time; you are not sure what to expect and how to make new friends. Your foster parent helps you bring in your belongings and wishes you luck. As you are unloading your luggage alone, your roommate and her family enter the room. She has tons of bags and items to decorate her side of the room. Her family members introduce themselves while helping her unpack.

“Where is your family?” they ask.

“I just told them that they can leave since they have a long drive home,” you reply. In that moment, you experience a sense of loneliness and uncertainty that is so profound and you feel envious of the love and support that your roommate has.

When I first started receiving ETV, I got emails reminding me to update my address so that I could get a care package. At first, I was not interested in whatever this “care package” would be. But to satisfy my curiosity, I finally updated my address and a few weeks later I received a box filled with snacks, hair products, DVDs and a card from ETV affiliates.

I still remember the first care package I received in 2009 – I was so grateful! It helped me temporarily fill the void in my life and made me feel like I actually had people who cared about my well-being. What mattered the most was the simple note that was left in the box! It gave my package more of a personal touch because it wasn’t just a group of people filling up boxes with goodies to send to foster youth.

Over the years, the care packages that I’ve received have gotten even better. For the first few packages, I received “random” goodies, such as shampoo. However, two years ago I received a red scarf, Mizani and Big Red hair products, and candy. I believe that the quality of the items inside of the box and the thought that was put into my box lessened my feelings of being JUST a “ward of the state.” It gave me the motivation to accomplish my goals and made me realize that there are people out there rooting for my success.

Now I am completing my last year in graduate school and plan to become a clinical therapist. I still think about how much my care packages meant to me.

Receiving the boxes reminded me of playing Sonic and how he would get a turbo boost to increase speed. My care packages gave me the “turbo boost” that I needed to continue. I was determined to not allow my past to define my future. Sometimes, I wish that I could still receive those packages!  However, I believe that my “turbo boost” can come through volunteering to do things (like helping with care packages) for those who are walking in my old shoes.

After getting so many care packages I truly believe that there is no better feeling than to know there are dedicated people in this world who are invested in your success!

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May is National Foster Care Month!

| May 1st, 2015

Multiethnic Group of Teenagers Walking at ParkMay 2015 is National Foster Care Month, a month specially designated each year to recognize the countless people and organizations improving the lives of young people in foster care across the country.

Established under President Reagan in 1988, National Foster Care Month is a special time to celebrate every individual who makes a difference in the lives of the nearly 400,000 children and youth in our nation’s foster care. This year’s theme is “Get to Know the Many Faces of Foster Care”—the many faces of foster parents, families, social workers, volunteers, mentors, policymakers and child welfare advocates who offer care and support to ensure foster youth can take appropriate next steps toward a brighter future.

Foster Care to Success (FC2S) believes every day should be foster care day. In 1981, FC2S began as the Orphan Foundation of America and for the three decades has served as the largest provider of college funding and support services for foster youth in the nation.

FC2S serves 5,000 young people annually, and over the past 30+ years, more than 50,000 foster youth have received information, advice, support or funding from our organization, helping them to transition from care to adulthood through education.

We are proud to work alongside all those who have made a commitment to ensuring a bright future for youth in and out of foster care and look forward to continue partnering with the many “faces of foster care.”

“This month, we honor these young people and all those who dedicate themselves to making a difference in the lives of girls and boys in foster care. Let us each recognize the large and small ways we can brighten the future of a foster child this month and every month, and together let us reach for the day when everyone knows the love and safety of a permanent home.”-President Barack Obama

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[Guest Blog] Making Time to Show Kindness

| April 15th, 2015

One Step at a Time“Now!” “Mine!” “No!”

These are three lovely words that I hear frequently as the mom of a 4 year old and a 1.5 year old. Let’s face it: Kids are selfish, and the truth is, we all are. Attempting to fight this selfishness, I resolved to serve more with my kids, and this resolution has led me to start an organization called The Family Service Club.

Our mission is to provide ideas, resources, and community to empower families to serve together. My personal goal is to do at least one service-related activity per month. We brought brownies to firefighters, valentines to retirement homes, and Easter baskets to cancer patients.

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Read more success stories.

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National Alliance to End Homelessness Releases “The State of Homelessness in America 2015″ Report

| April 10th, 2015

sad young woman with knitted hatThe National Alliance to End Homelessness recently released a report, which found that on any given night in January 2014, 578,424 people experienced homelessness. This, the report explains, means people who were sleeping outside, in an emergency shelter or in a transitional housing program.

The State of Homelessness in America 2015” also revealed that unaccompanied youth and children accounted for 7.8 percent—or 45,205 youth—of the total number of homeless Americans last year.

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New Mexico Wins in Foster Youth’s Medicaid Coverage

| April 8th, 2015

New Mexico, along with 13 other states, has made an enormous leap for providing Medicaid coverage for foster youth.

Governor Susana Martinez signed legislation requiring the state to provide Medicaid coverage to former foster children up to age 26, no matter what state they resided in when they aged out of foster care.

Why is this considered a win?

Since the passing of the Affordable Care Act in January 2014, foster youth are eligible to remain under health care (much like other young people that are able to remain on their parent’s health insurance) until 26. However, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued language to clarify how states should implement the new legislation, which stated foster youth are only eligible for Medicaid coverage in the same state in which he or she aged out of foster care at 18 and enrolled in Medicaid.

What does this mean?

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Passion: The Heart of a True Gentleman

| April 8th, 2015

DSC_8813Three years ago Tremale Berger stood confidently in front of a crowd. He looked out at the gathering of around 40 young men, certain his eloquently prepared speech would compel the youth to action.

A sea of wide, expecting eyes rested on Tremale, and as he scanned the room and looked into the eyes of each and every young man there, suddenly his confidence shifted. Tremale could see the needs and desires anxiously pleading through each youth’s gaze, and in that moment, he knew that whatever he said next would leave a lasting impact on the young men.

“I told them that we’re here to help you do what you want,” Tremale said. “The foundation of our program is us helping the young men discover and do what they want, not us telling them what they should want and do. We focus on what their interests are.”

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