on foster care issues:

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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April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

| April 7th, 2015

Cute little girl holding pinwheel at parkOur work at Foster Care to Success is so intrinsically tied this issue, as some people fail to realize: children in the foster care system are not bad kids, rather they’ve had bad things happen to them.

Every year, about 3 million cases of child abuse are reported in the United States, most of which are placed in the foster care system. While the statistics are grave, our society continually strives to build a safer and more equitable home for communities, families and most importantly children.

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What’s the Latest News in Foster Care Legislation?

| March 31st, 2015

Hot off the pressFrom national headlines to local news, the foster care field is a hot topic. All across the nation child welfare advocates continue working tirelessly to improve the experiences of youth in and out of foster care.

Want to learn about the latest news in foster care legislation? Check out some of the most recent proposed laws on behalf of foster youth:

Giving Credit where it’s Due

No matter their duration in foster care, youth need adequate, appropriate, caring support—and U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp is working to ensure more families can offer this care.

On March 5, 2015, Heitkamp reintroduced the Foster Care Tax Credit Act, which would ensure families who care for children for shorter periods of time are eligible for tax credits.

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