January 28th, 2012
12:46 PM ET

University of Alabama students beat foster care odds

By Julie Peterson, CNN

(CNN) For the more than half a million kids in foster care in the United States, traumatic childhoods are often commonplace. With their home situations constantly changing, students in foster care frequently miss school, and academic growth can be handicapped. Two percent of foster care children go on to earn college degrees, according to the Atlanta-based nsoro Foundation .

But two University of Alabama seniors who faced similar difficult paths in the foster care system have defied the odds to become high achievers on theTuscaloosa, Alabama, campus.

Both Caroline James, 23, and Sean Hudson, 22, entered foster care at age 11. They each describe stories of serious abuse in the homes of their biological families.

Growing up, James helped raise her younger brothers because, she says, her mother abandoned them and their father went on drug binges for weeks at a time. With her teen years approaching, she decided that foster care was the answer for herself and her brothers. A turning point in her life came when the Booker T. Washington Magnet High School in Montgomery, Alabama, recruited her, she said. The school recognized her intellectual capabilities and potential, and college became a possibility.

James’ acceptance at the University of Alabama gave her a fresh start.

“As soon as I got to the University of Alabama, I did not want to discuss it,” she said. “I’m not going to be that kid that needs another handout. I’m sick of it.” James, who has a double major in social psychology and intercultural communications, is a member of the prestigious Mortar Board honor society. She said she intends to go to law school and then work for a nonprofit to help those who are struggling.

Hudson, a social work major with a 3.7 grade-point average, said his turning point came when a mentor showed him a path to his future. Social worker Alice Westery “saw me as a regular child,”Hudson said. “She helped me inspire change within me. (People in the foster care system) actually believed in me.”

With a large presence on theTuscaloosa campus,Hudson serves on several organizations’ boards and has earned multiple honors, including a Distinguished Scholar Award from the university. Like James, Hudson said he is aiming for law school.  From there, he said he would like to work in advocacy and public policy.

Hudson has three jobs and has earned 10 scholarships, helping with the financial part of the college equation.

But James said financial struggles are only a piece of the challenge facing students from foster care. Stereotypes are another hurdle, she said.

“I think that many people perceive foster students to be purposefully underachievers. I think that what they’re missing out on is that oftentimes, foster kids don’t have the tools and furthermore, they don’t know what to do with them once they get them,” James said. “So even if you get a foster student into a college program, it doesn't mean that they're going to matriculate through that program properly because oftentimes during their developmental ages, they've actually been missing a lot of things.”

As these two standout scholars complete their degrees, they are knocking down these stereotypes and obstacles, displacing the notion that foster kids can’t earn a college diploma.

Follow Julie Peterson on Twitter @NewsJulie.

Filed under: After High School • College • Issues • Voices
soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. Dan

    There is a fundamental issue with the 2% statistic.

    Kids that enter the foster care system have varied reasons and have varied lengths of stay in a foster care setting. I am personally aware of kids that have been in a foster care setting for 27 hours, 4 days, 2 weeks, 5 months, 9 months and 2+ years. How does the statistic account for this...

    – A newborn child who was taken from the hospital by foster parents then returned to the biological family after 2 weeks.
    – A child that was placed in foster care for 27 hours before being returned to the biological mom who had second thoughts about abandoning her child at a church.
    – A child who was placed in foster care from ages 3-5 before being returned to the biological mother who is a refugee from a war torn country.
    – A child who was placed in foster care at age 5 for 6 months before being adopted by the foster family.
    – A child who was placed from foster care 3 months before their 18th birthday and eventually aged-out.

    How can all of these "foster kids" be lumped into the same study from which to draw pertinent conclusions on regarding their college graduation rate? Unless the stat is qualified better, I do not see how a reputable news organization such as CNN can use such information. Not requiring the data to go through a more substantial vetting process is irresponsible. Irresponsible. CNN is doing a disservice to those in foster care and those providing foster care with such reckless use of this data.

    The statistic should be accompanied by an median length of stay in foster care, sample size, other qualifying data. Lets assume worst case scenario, that 2% (of foster kids who have spent at lease 2 years in the system) graduate with a bachelors degree, compare this rate to kids with similar backgrounds, from similar socio-economic backgrounds. Compare this rate with the rate of college graduation of the kids' biological parents.

    My hope is that someone addresses this lapse in judgement, of referencing un-qualified, un-substantiated statistics.

    January 30, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Amused

      My, aren't we full of ourselves! I am simply AMAZED at your ability to turn an uplifting positive story of overcoming barriers and fulfilling great potential into some kind of negative bashing B.S. You are pathetic...

      January 30, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Dee

      I'm sorry but you seem to miss the primary focus of the article which is that children (young adults) who have suffered have overcome many obstacles and have achieved far beyond their own expectations. You should be singing their praises and that of those who have participated in inspiring them to achieve a level of competence to be able to help others. But, by all means, focus upon the cold, impersonal statistical data instead of the person. That will make you a real human being.

      January 31, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
  2. TRACK

    And if the child(ren) are not college material, when what? I am glad some are going to college n onward however, we are just praising the educated ones! Every person is not college material, the plumber makes 125.00 a visit. Many are going to be just ordinary just like you.
    Being a foster parent is not for everyone, but if you are not going to do your best for the child leave them alone. In some situations, it is about the "money", sad to say...
    James n Hudson congrats to both of you...

    January 30, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  3. A High Schooler

    Okay before I start I would like to say that contrary to what most of you think it is scars not scares, please learn to spell. The proud professor one was the worst. Anyways when I was a child my father left us and my mom had severe psychological problems, she however happened to marry my step-father, this is probably the best thing that could have happened to me as she gave us my sister and then she proceeded to leave the situation right at the age when I actually was able to understand what was going on. This hurt me but custody was granted to my non blood relative step father so technically I am adopted and not actually a foster child. He married my adoptive mother and life hasn't been great. It was really rough actually, we still fight and bicker but it is quite possible to survive. I shall always resent them for failing as being parents but I was able to fight out of the world they created. My father cheated on my mother and then proceeded to quit his job. They were not meant to raise a child at such a young age but they pushed me to never be like them. I have held a job at Burger King almost since the day of my sixteenth birthday and all I do is try to give to most people. My parents never give me anything and rarely let me hang out with anyone but you would be surprised as to how many people refuse help. High school for me and the others I go to school with believe we are invincible and do not need help in anyway. This is simply not true but foster parents that get their children in the middle school era of your life have a hard job as they have to compete with what these children think. Nothing has gone right for them ever. This is a chance they get and a half a million is a rather small number that isn't even enough children to fill half of Portland Oregon that is rather incredible actually. This systems goal is not to take you away from your biological parents, trust me on that. Before my dad got full custody I had to live with mentally unbalanced mother. My life went from worse to at least better than worse with my adoptive parents, my GPA is a 3.7 and I don't even gibe it my all, I am going to enlist in the air force this summer after scoring a 96 on the ASVAB my life would not have been possible outside of these parents I have to break free of and become myself. I am going to discover myself over the next six years at least I thank my self for all I have accomplished so instead of ragging on the system find out why the system is actually in place. The USA is an amazing country we may be behind the world in public welfare but we do a darn good job at it. So next time you want to rag on something think before you speak, there are no exceptions in this article, only acceptance. Maybe you should try it sometime. In response to FACT CHECKER and Sara and anyone else I did not mention. So please be king with over thirty million children in the US one in sixty is remarkable.

    January 30, 2012 at 4:09 am |
    • A High Schooler

      be thinking computer lagged for a second there and messed me up

      January 30, 2012 at 4:37 am |
  4. pam

    Nice story but sad to see such low statistics. Having been through the foster system myself, I can understand why the number is so low. I was taken away to foster care as a young teenager for very good reasons. My foster experience, although difficult emotionally, was the best thing that happened to me. Just to be away from constant fear of abuse, gave me the strength to find my fight. I had great foster parents who tried their best to treat me the same as their own children. I cost them a lot more than the measly $300 they received per month being that I was a teenage girl, but they were always more than happy to do whatever was need to normalize my world, whether that was shuttling me back and forth for sports, or making me a prom dress...they were absolutely amazing. Foster kids have multiple issues to deal with emotionally that no amount of money or "gift" can fix. I recently spoke with an ex-foster who is now in college and she told me that she has a lot of moments even in college that are emotionally difficult, like not having parents to call and share good news about making the honor roll, or no parents to do a campus tour with her like other students..things many kids take for granted. All the things she was accomplishing, she did so without that family connection or support. All people need to feel love and belonging; that there is at least one person on this planet that unconditionally loves them. The odds are stacked against foster kids in life, but it only takes one person believing in their potential for them to learn how to find their fight and move forward. I'm living proof of that. I cried myself to sleep alot during those early years, but through a lot of self care and encouragement, I developed an internal locus of control that allowed me to see the good in all situations...including my rocky upbringing. Today, I am a successful professional with two college degrees, and a beautiful family. I have been blessed by those throughout my life that pushed me to stand when I wanted to fall, to continue forward, when I felt it so much easier to stop. For all those angels out there who have chosen to make a difference in the lives of foster children, thank you. What you do matters and changes lives. It's a gift that keeps giving as I work each day to motivate and inspire young people around me to stand strong and move forward...in spite of.

    January 30, 2012 at 12:55 am |
  5. Pauline


    January 30, 2012 at 12:48 am |
  6. Dorothy

    Hats off to both of you. Good luck to the of you.

    January 29, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
  7. willlast

    being a foster parent is not all about money, we have fosters parents support group in my community that help those foster parents that have difficult foster children with behavioral problems due to lack of parenting skills their biological family has- I work a full time job and had this baby since birth every nickle I receive for this child goes to the daycare ..that takes good care of this child and has been for four years( now in the process of adopting)child was returned to Mom it lasted 1 month.. child back in the system. after years of working toward reunitifcation..didn't work

    January 29, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  8. Mor

    What an inspiring story! I was adopted at birth and have never taken for granted how lucky I was and have always felt a strong urge to work in the field. I am now going to obtain my Masters in Social Work to work with youth in care who have been placed for adoption. I have been working with my state legislature to see how the funds from the federal Fostering Connections Act can help assist youth in care, and hope that this piece of legislation can help youth get better services for their education, healthcare and permanency! Thank you all for sharing your stories and I hope we can all work together to help improve outcomes for the foster care population!

    January 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
  9. Another Concerned Parent!

    The States Foster Care System steals and then twists, brainwashes & manipulates our children... it's all about money, money, money NOT our children or their best interests! Start researching; it is another governmental corrupt business of PURE tax dollar waste & evil handed cruel tactics to strip us of our rights and profit off devastation & destruction! They do everything BUT what is in the BEST interests of our OWN children and keeping OUR families together! The truth & facts that most never hear about are VERY shocking, heartbreaking, cruel, abusive & alarming! That is the REAL reason and WHY there are so many children who are IN foster care!

    January 29, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • Scoobie

      Sounds to me like you did something to have your kids removed... FIrst of all, the "system" does not steal kids. People do the kinds of things that make lawenforcement feel the need to remove their children... You know little things like not feeding them, beating them with boards, raping them, giving them drugs, not treating illnesses, leaving them home alone for hours while they go out and score drugs, locking them in dog cages and filiming it.... you know little things.. The kids do have rights .. In NV we have a "Foster Children's Bill of Rights". They have lots of protections and get a ton of support. Again, here in NV most of the kids get an attorney who's only job is to fight for what the kid wants, even if it is not in their best interest (usually things like going back to an abusive home). The number ONE goal of every foster care system in this country is to reunite the families that can be. Some natural parents just don't get it. Most foster parents are good people, some are great, then there are the ones that need to be gotten rid of (just like in any job around the country). Most of us try to keep the kids as long as we can (many times adopting them). Sometimes though, the kids are aware of the fact that if they act bad enough, someone else will give up. So when they get tired of a home and want to try someplace with fewer rules or better toys, they behave so badly that the parents do give up. It is a shame that it happens, but when you are giving yourself to someone to try and help their lives, sometimes there is only so much that you will allow yours to be disrupted before you move on to the next.

      January 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm |
      • Another Concerned Parent!

        Sorry, nice try in using your training and skills to manipulate children... but I an adult and nope, no children of mine have been used in the making of YOUR twisted system scam! Listen, concern, research & FACTS... not only what you are "told", will give anyone who is geniunely concerned without 1 buck in it for them... the TRUTH without the game of LIES here! It simply comes down to narcissists many masks of GREED -not children.

        January 29, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
      • SW IN CA.

        A very sincere thank you Scoobie. Although our Juvenile Dependency system is far from perfect, 99.9999% of the time the parents have done something that places their children in danger. The person you were responding to appears to believe that parents have no responsibility in this process. Parents rights on Contingent, children's rights are absolute! If they have a problem with that, then don't have children in the US., or work to change the laws they see as unjust.

        January 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • jerry

      You have absolutely no idea what your talking about. I took in my foster son. I taught him how to read,write and become a responsible child. Now 3 years later he is my son and is a straight A student. My son has 10 times the character that you have.

      January 29, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • a fosterkid

      Im a foster kid and its hard. I don't mean my family (the people im placed with) abuses oranything, me its acually against the law now to abuse a FC<– foster child; im talking about the fact that my mother would rather be with her boyfreind than her own kids. foster families really don't get alot of money and they have to pay for almost everything we have. I've been in 4 different homes in about 15yrs. two of them were bad but the other 2 are special to me. I consiter my foster family my real family. im 17 and i have seen other kids worse off. Im actually going to go to college in 2 years and my FF(foster family) are going to let me stay with them even after i graduate. a lot of us don't graduate but thats because we don't belive we can or people give us the right tools to succed but there are still many of us who beat the odds no matter what they are!

      January 30, 2012 at 6:54 pm |
    • M.S.

      The amount of money spent to maintain children in the foster care system is astronomical. The 'system' does not go out in the community and seek children! These children are brought to the attention of social work professionals through neighbors, family members, hospitals, teachers, and concerned citizens. Children deserve to be treated with love and compassion and sometimes their families for whatever reasons are unable to do that. That is why foster care exist! Not to strip anyone of their rights, but to provide an environment that is safe and stable for our children. It sounds to me like you're another parent that feels they were 'wronged' by the 'system.' You should seek some professional help.

      February 1, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  10. Kurt

    These kids can succeed, but they need a helping hand. There are ways for you to help foster children. I am a member of an organization in Southern California called Friends of Foster Children that helps these kids with not only basic needs, but outings, school supplies, Christmas gifts, and even college scholarships. Find an organization near you and get involved. You will be making a huge difference in thses kid's lives.

    January 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • Fact Checker!

      Why? Foster parents get WAY more money per child each month than MOST parents spend each month meeting their children's every need and want, already! I'm not buffalooed by "poor" foster care children NEEDS! It's so the foster parents can KEEP more cash that is not rightfully theirs! Donate to HOMELESS children BEFORE "poor" foster child! Just start looking up what foster parents receive per child in your OWN State, people! Another "poor foster child needs..." SCAM!

      January 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm |
      • Josh

        Gee look what I (insert foster parent, NOT donor) GAVE & did for you Johnny = BRIBERY/BUY OFF tactic used to manipulate and brainwash kids for BIG corruption profit

        January 29, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
      • Bobbi

        Fact Checker, you need to check your facts. I am a foster parent. I don't abuse the kids, and i don't make a lot of money either. In Texas, we get $22.15 per day for a basic care child. Less than $1 an hour considering we care for them 24/7. And out of that money we need to supply food, clothing, entertainment, school supplies, etc. Everything except medical costs which is provided by medicaid. We also have to take them to doctor/dentists, therapists (weekly), family visits (weekly). We are monitored by both CPS and our licensing agency as well as CASA if they have a court appointed CASA worker. You can spout your igornance but you probably should change your id from FACT CHECKER to LOUD MOUTH IDIOT. grrr

        January 29, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
      • Fact Checker!

        Is that how the foster care system trains you to talk & treat those who YOU disagree and want to try to HUSH? Bummer, if you could only pop me a pill to keep me quiet so you can condition me to 'believe', eh? No worries, you can just put that receipt along with each months trips, clothes, school supplies, toys, cell phones, food... and anything else you can creatively NEED to be reimbursed from the State for "your" expenses PLUS the already allotted State check for child's "expenses"! Sorry but S.C.A.M. alert!!

        January 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm |
      • Bobbi

        And it still makes you an idiot. Nobody reimburses us for anything except the 22.15 per day. If you know anything about what you spew, you know this is true. You obviously know what you think you know and are not willing to admit you don't know the truth about some things. Pity you. Some people cannot be taught. And none of my 4 kids are on any meds. Oh sigh,,,,again you are wrong. g'bye waste of air.

        January 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
      • John McCormick

        A $1 and hour for the basic and not even the problem children care? With medical, needed services, counseling, college paid and even gifts? Really? Holy smokes! I bet the success rate with these children would be much, much higher if that kind of assistance was given to the biological parent instead ===>AND would save much needed resources by leaving out all these other people who help PUT these children with unknowns!

        January 29, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
      • Cathy

        I know John, right? Here I always thought it was good-hearted foster care people who were sort of well off people that got very little assistance to take care of these children! At least that's what they make it sound! Not all THAT! Why do they have all these drives for foster kids when these people are already getting paid and getting a lot of this stuff covered then, too?? I think the one commenter that suggested donating to homeless children instead, might be on to something here! Hm food for thought. Thx

        January 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
      • Bobbi

        To Sara wink* wink*

        My husband has a job and we are not young. When needed we use what was our retirement fund to help. We live on one income. The 22.15 per kid per day (remember I have 4 kids so do the math) also does defray costs. However, we are not living lush off these kids as Fact Checker implies. What we get to care for the kids goes to the kids. That is the point I'm making. This is NOT a money making business. If it were, why aren't more people doing it?

        January 29, 2012 at 9:18 pm |
      • Kaelinda

        You don't know what you're talking about. Some foster parents (and I am one of them) treat foster children as if they were their own children. Two of my three foster children are still considered 'my' family, decades after they were kicked out of the system at the age of 18.

        January 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm |
      • Sara

        Bobbi you ask why aren't more people doing it? Certianly, more than half of a million foster children aren't all at your house, right? lol Personally, I think its a great stay-at-home mom, self-ego boosting income! I just know that over half a MILLION children didn't deserve to be taken away from their biological parent(s) in America! THAT is the real problem in point that seems to fly right over society's heads in these stories! Instead, it seems society is destracted with always stroking how great those who are fostering them and/or IN foster care! Hello? More than HALF A MILLION children were TAKEN from their REAL PARENTS!! To me, that is a sad, sick shame of ALL of ours in this country. But GEE, you sure make a great paid foster parent there! Just saying!

        January 29, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
      • Bobbi

        Sara....I can't speak for all kids but the ones I've had placed here primarily come from drug addicted parents or physical abuse. When a parent has a meth lab in the home where there are children, I dunno what you think of that, but to me that would be reason to take the kids away. But you want to argue the issue and I won't do that with you. I gave you the website you were unable to find and simply am saying this is not a get rich quick situation as others seem to think. I'm sorry you feel you can't be a stay at home mom, geez I worked outside the home for over 30 years and raised my kids while working, so I kinda get why you might want to attack me for what I am doing now. Perhaps I'm just a glutton for punishment to want to take care of little kids...seeing as all my biological kids are grown with kids of their own. I could sit back in a very nice lifestyle (and get back my old job) and coast out to retirement but, geez I dunno, i guess I kinda got caught up in helping these kids whose parents dont really want them. Stay at home mom! rofl, that is too funny seeing as my kids are grown and have homes of their own.

        January 29, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
      • Sara

        Apparently somebody didn't get "told" their fully accustomed perk in 'ego stroked 100%' quota in for their paid job today! Welcome back to the REAL World for a second.

        January 30, 2012 at 12:33 am |
    • brianna

      read kurts post then read bobbis. i think fact checker may be right in that so that the foster care person can KEEP what they are supposedly getting the check for in the first place! Wow!

      January 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
      • Bobbi

        Brianna, I suppose some foster parents could "keep the money" but you have to actually go to your state's website and see what the money is. If the kids never eat, have dirty clothes, don't go anywhere like drs, dnts, therapy, movies, discovery center, city zoo (which we did today), get haircuts, have toys and educational materials available, etc then yes I suppose we could pocket the money. But being 'visited' by the folks I earlier stated eventually we'd be found out wouldn't we? When the kids are losing weight and all those other things that would happen? Fact Checker says that we are reimbursed for our expenses. This is not true. We, in Texas, receive 22.15 per day per basic care child. No reimbursements for our gas, cell phones, food...none of what FC stated. It is not reimbursed. Period. Now if Fact Checker really is checking facts, I would love to see this person show us where this reimbursement information can be found. If its there I have no knowledge of it (been doing this for 6 years). If I'm wrong I will offer Fact Checker an apology on this site right here every day for the next week. I'll do one even better! I will get one of those supposed reimbursement checks and send it to Fact Checker as a gift for the heads up. Show me where I can get those reimbursements for my expenses. Its not happening in the State of Texas.

        January 29, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
      • Sara

        Uhh, one most probe much deeper than the State's website with what this system doesn't want outsiders to know. Funny Bobbi, I wished I could afford to do all that you list with/for my kids on that measly "less than $1 hr" that you describe. Oh how do you do it? {wink-wink} lol

        January 29, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
      • Bobbi

        Also to sara...check it out http://www.dfps.state.tx.us/PCS/rates_childcare_reimbursement.asp

        and I responded to you earlier but scroll up if you want. wink wink

        January 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm |
  11. VA_Jill

    Why should this even be news? I am happy for these young people, but the article is also a backhanded slap at those who didn't make it due to the foster care system being the way it is. Kids in foster care have no rights and get no support. If they wind up with a good foster parent or a good mentor along the way, they are lucky, but too many of them don't and just slip through the cracks. Unfortunately, unless the foster care system is completely overhauled these stories will continue to be the exceptions. To most legislators, kids don't count because kids don't vote.

    January 29, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • jbug

      Why shouldn't this be news? This shows what can happen when foster children are supported, given the tools and find success when they know how to use the tools. It is also an eye opener for individuals that do not realize what is going on in the lives of many children and teens.

      January 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
  12. a.

    this is so informative!

    January 29, 2012 at 11:45 am |
  13. sanjosemike

    Any foster-home raised kid who can beat the odds deserves praise. My hat's off to each of them. May you have a life of real success. You deserve it.


    January 29, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Kaelinda

      Some foster kids are too 'messed up' to be successful at anything. My foster daughter was given a tuition grant (Pell Grant) to go to college – she couldn't manage to attend classes or do homework, something she was required to do when she lived with us. She was given a tuition grant to a cosmetology school – she lost her temper one day and trashed the classroom, so was expelled. She was given a tuition grant to study Microsoft Word and other things so she could be a secretary or administrative assistant. She got involved with a boyfriend and couldn't focus – failed the test by one point, she tells me. It took getting caught for her crimes and spending a year in jail and two years on probation to straighten her out. Even then, she quit her job, got involved with a boyfriend, got pregnant, and is now living on welfare as a single mom with a baby. We got her when she was 16, so we only had two years with her before the system kicked her out – and told me that if I wanted another foster child, I had to never see or speak to her again. My biological daughter was also a foster mom for a few years, but she had to give it up due to getting divorced. Foster kids don't have an easy time of it even when they have good foster parents – or even great foster parents. Their parents should have been corralled by the foster system and forced to take parenting classes repeatedly until they learned how to treat a child.

      January 29, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  14. A Chance in the World

    We have really romanticized adoption in the U.S. when in fact the picture doesn't always look like Little Orphan Annie. This hit home for me I recently read A Chance in the World. It is written by a Walgreens executive and chronicles his miraculous rise from foster care to find a place he calls home. I couldn't put it down. I had never heard the term aging out or knew some of the other hurdles foster children face. Only 2%? Just stunning....

    January 29, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  15. jimzcarz

    My Parents left when I was 12. They both ran off chasing the dragon.My brother (who is 2 years older) and I wound up at our uncles till I was about 15, I was working 2 jobs by 15 and started supporting myself. There was no way I was going to let them put me in foster care. I saw how screwed up those places were and felt I had a better chance on my own.Needless to say I didn't finish H.S. and struggled pretty Hard till I mastered my trade. At age 35 I broke my back and had to change my career. I found myself at the steps of the school again,this time to get my GED.
    Today I teach my trade (Automotive) and try to help kids that are growing up on the rougher side of life.

    January 29, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Suz

      Good for you!

      That is so great that you are giving back!

      January 29, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
  16. Katherine

    I am amazed at what the human heart can withstand, overcome and achieve! I have a blessed life! My parents never laid a hurtful finger on me and I knew everyday that I was loved. I have 5 beautiful siblings. We are all close and love one another. I look at what others have had to go through and I know I'm not worthy of all I've been blessed with. I feel with all I've been given, I have yet to achieve some of what you all in the foster care system have achieved. I admire you and want to follow your example of strength and resilience! Thank you for your stories.

    January 29, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  17. Proud Prof.

    I have a student who spent 15 years in the foster care system between7 different families and was adopted at the age of 17. She is an excellent student, a Gates Millennium Scholar, is being courted by seveall graduate schools and is already thinking of gettig her PhD. This in itself would all be amazing accomplishments for anyone, let alone one who spent so many years being moved around in foster care. But the thing that has really moved me about this students is that while still working on her undergraduate degree she started a non-for-profit organization that helps guide foster kids through the process of applying for college, finding scholarships, navigating the student loan process, etc. She is using herself as a beacon for these kids, to show them that they can attend college and move onto a better life. She is one of my heros.

    January 29, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  18. William

    i was in 8 foster homes and 2 orphanages around Cleveland Ohio. Every foster home i was in was a horrid, mean, lonely place. All my letters were read, we were beat, always hungry, no clothes and when you would tell someone, or try to tell your case worker, they told the parents so I got beatings again. Neighbors wouldn't let you play with their kids of come over. One boy ran away trice, both times telling the police and his case worker what was happening. They took him back and left him. i never saw a child beat like that. The second time he cut his hair because the woman we were forced to call mom liked to grab your hair when she punched you. I could go on, but its like describing what living on Venus would be like. I left on my own when i was 16, went into the Army, got my education and now have a nice house and a good, quiet, peaceful family. But i hold an ember of hate in me like some cancer and its directed at those who for years saw me as nothing but a paycheck and a punching bag. I am not a fan of the foster care system.

    January 29, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Jill

      Fortunately, you seem very strong. Hope for others who are suffering.

      January 29, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Dchild2000

      William, I am extremely sorry that you had to endure such a horrible experience while in foster care. Continue to strive for a successful life, but more importantly, make sure that your mental and emotional sanity are healthy. You would be surprised how much invisible scare tissue lingers in your heart and clouds your judgement if you do not address traumatic childhood events (trust me, I know about this very well). Good luck and peace be with you...

      January 29, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • a.

      hey william,
      i'm so sorry for your experience. childhood is supposed to be a time that you feel secure and loved, and if you don't, that can set the tone for the rest of your life.
      but the ember like cancer, don't let the wrong and cruel actions of others affect your inner being.
      easier said than done i know.
      for ten years i struggled with the same thing.
      and finally understanding that i was just a child, and even forgiving myself – i was not responsible!! – and finding the time to give back to other kids in tiny ways, was healing.
      also, it may sound hippie dippy, but worth a try - bc your childhood was taken away, don't let them take away your health too!!!
      you can google heart opening yoga poses.
      if it's difficult to sit still in them, good, that means it's a challenge for your mind/body and from there only growth.
      love on you william.

      January 29, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • William

      Thank you.

      January 29, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  19. richardtilley

    Traditional brick and mortal schools did not work for me and High Speed Universities opened doors and provided great opportunities for me. Research yourself.

    January 29, 2012 at 3:35 am |
  20. Tim Gomes

    My life began as an abandoned newborn that went through the foster care system.

    For me, my memories of foster care are non-existant. I was first placed in foster care when six months old. Three months later I was removed because of abuse and contact with tuberculosis. Myt next set of foster parents adopted my and things worked out from there.

    Now, some sixty years later, I found my biological parents. It turns out my father was told I was stillborn, and my mother "escaped" from the hospital the day after I was born. I was abandoned at birth. My mother prayed for me everyday, and my father needed a DNA test.

    I now have a new family of complete strangers that accept and love me unconditionally, in addition to my family of over sixty years that always knew I was adopted. I was, and am, just part of the family. Both birth parents are nearly dirt poor, while I earned an MA and have had a good life. This "good life" was made possible by the loving foster parents that adopted me, and healed the scares from the foster parents that abused me.

    Sometimes the bitter-sweet foster care system ends up sweet.

    Sixty-two years old with a new familoy of total strangers. And that is only a small part of the story!

    January 29, 2012 at 2:44 am |
  21. Curtis

    I was placed into foster care 2 weeks after coming to America. To make a long story short, I also graduated from UA in 2006. I am a U.S. army First Sergeant Retired; I graduated from Texas A&M Central Texas this past December with my MS in HRM. I am currently working for the Veterans Affairs as a Human Resources Specialist. Today, I live with my beautiful wife and 2 sons. Not having a dad, and the pain of foster care still lingers.

    January 29, 2012 at 1:43 am |
  22. racecar

    So much pride for these grads; I've found myself in the same boat. I graduated from a Big Ten school in 2005, and spent the eighteen year prior to that being tossed from one foster home to another. It takes serious guts to finish college after a lifetime in foster care, and not just because of the educational deficits foster children usually have. People with families don't realize how much family support is worth in college. It was deeply depressing to me to be the only kid in my dorm with no visitors on Mom's and Dad's weekends, or having to move into a dorm all alone wihtout anyone to see me off. And decising not to tell your college pals, the children of lawyers and teachers, aboout what your own parents did for a living, because while you haven't seen them in eighteen years, you've heard that they still sell drugs somewhere on the South Side, and you don't want to alienate your friends.

    It's tremendously sad that such a small percentage of foster kids even make it to college, let alone graduate. I don't know what the solution the problem would be; I only hope that the trend gets reversed soon.

    January 29, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • paige

      You are so special and I wish I could hug you. Be the change you want to see is a famous saying of Ghandi's. I believe in foster children, I believe they can be directed when they are seen as children and not a statistic.

      January 29, 2012 at 1:28 am |
  23. DR

    I was placed into foster care at the age of two. I was moved in and out of multiple foster homes and groups homes until I was 18. If it had not been for one of my 9th grade teachers who saw something in a kid who had long given up on himself, and the undying love of her husband, there is no question I wouldn't be where I am today. They invited me into their home when I was 14. When I graduated from high school in the 80's I sincerely thought I wanted to forget the first 18 years of my life ever happened. Well, on 27 Jan 2012, I was in their home celebrating another one of my birthdays. Without their support I have no doubt that I wouldn't have graduated high school. To repay that incredible act of kindness I could think of no better way to honor them than by earning my college degree in education and teaching. I also joined the air force as an enlisted member, earned an officer's commission. Yes, my first 14 years as a ward of the state was no walk in the park. However, the eventually races/journeys that I have experienced in life have been incredible. And those races/journeys have only been possible because of that teacher and her husband.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • 13Directors

      Mentors are so few and far between. I am so glad you found yours and wish you the very best. Truly.

      January 28, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
  24. Saxo Grammaticus

    Many foster kids are so damaged by the time they're rescued that it takes years and years for them to get their feet back under them. We couldn't be prouder of our own foster daughter who graduated from college and will finish her graduate degree in a year. She is an extraordinary young woman. Her siblings have so far done nowhere near as well as she, although they're all bright kids. I wish I had an idea about how to reform the system.

    January 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • Paganguy

      I have had no family problem whatsoever.
      Due to distances and educational needs, I lived in a Stae/School financed dormitory from age 12 until finishing college.
      I think it is a better solution than moving kids from one foster home to another. The dorms had good no-nonsense supervision. With the other students I always felt like family. They were all my "brothers". I wonder how they are doing.

      January 29, 2012 at 12:31 am |
      • paige

        Yes yes yes!! I agree 100%. I also believe that if these state funded residential schools were placed in every state the stupid notion of reunification would be abolished. Let the parents who straighten up, come visit on parents day and send money. But to continually try to put the innocent child back in their abusers hands is crazy and sick. It treats the child like property instead of the unique human being they are.

        January 29, 2012 at 1:32 am |
  25. CAP

    I wholeheartedly agree that foster kids should have their tuition paid for, etc. Another sad note is that there are a lot of other children who reach 18 without support, skills, etc. that weren't in foster care at all. Poverty sucks...Dire situations could have parents let their children fall into the system to have a better life...at the very least, an education....a chance at a better life 🙁

    January 28, 2012 at 8:21 pm |
    • William

      When you reach 18 its called emancipation. It means out in the streets for you.

      January 29, 2012 at 7:02 am |
      • Dchild2000

        That's not true for all states and commonwealths who receive funding from the (Chafee) Foster Care Independence Act of 1999. Under this act, youth can remain in foster care until 21years old if their state/commonwealth receives federal funding for public assistance, among other guidelines. Unfortunately, not all states/commonwealths elect to receive this assistance, social workers, local public admministrators choose to put their own agendas ahead of the youth in need, and other bureaucratic issues preclude this federal mandate from reaching the youth. I know this because I am a certified life skills trainer and coach for foster care and at-risk youth.

        January 29, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  26. Missing the Point

    Most of you are missing the point. Don't try to fix the foster care system because it is beyond repair. Just 2% of foster kids get a college degree? The US average today is about 30%, a factor of 15 difference. Lara is absolutely right. Foster care can be a Godsend to some, but not most. Most foster kids get turned loose on the world at 18 with no family, no skills, no support network, and essentially no hope for a normal life. A stunning number end up homeless or incarcerated. To wit:

    "A 1991 federal study of former foster care wards found that one-fourth had been homeless, 40 percent were on public assistance and half were unemployed. Connecticut officials estimate 75 percent of youths in the state's criminal justice system were once in foster care. According to a survey by the National Association of Social Workers, 20 percent of children living in runaway shelters come directly from foster care. Children placed in out-of-home care, regardless of the reason, are at higher risk of developing alcohol and drug problems. The survey also found that 80 percent of prisoners in Illinois spent time in foster care as children."

    One has to wonder if the stigma of being a foster child outweighs the stigma that was once attached with being an orphan. I'd rather retry orphanages than to throw more money at a system that has been a failure from the very beginning and shows no sign of improving. Indeed, some genius bureaucrat will someday realize that if foster kids are sent directly to jail at age 18, we could really put a dent in crime and homelessness. Or even more money can be saved by just putting this kids to sleep like we do for stray dogs and cats. We who have sterilized the unfit in the name of eugenics and done medical experiments on unwilling subjects in the name of science are perfectly capable of killings kids if the cost/benefit ratio is right.

    These are human beings. They have dignity even if they have no family, no money, or no lobbyists in the District of Corruption.

    January 28, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • SCFosterParent

      Your response is all over the place.....Your statistics are powerful, if they are accurate. But I am a little perplexed about the comparison that you appear to be making between foster children and stray animals. I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you are elaborating on what could happen if these children are deemed too expensive to care for by the state. Still I think you should be more careful with your wording. I think everyone, even cold hearted government officials, value the lives of precious children.

      The problems with the foster care system are almost entirely societal. The system itself is overwhelmed by the sheer number of children requiring care. Why? Because we live in a world where many, many parents no longer care enough about children to take care of them properly. They quite simply choose drugs, alcohol, and/or abusive relationships over their children. Also, the system gives these parents way too many chances to "overcome" their addictions and shortcomings. One strike and you are out should be the rule. Many children bounce between foster care and mama, grandma, aunt, etc. and that instability directly contributes to the educational problems of many children in foster care. If you catch these children at a young enough age and put them into loving foster then adoptive homes, you change the path of their lives and allow them a much better chance to be successful and productive members of society in adulthood.

      January 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
      • a.

        that you are on this board engaging in a dialogue makes it likely that you're a caring foster parent, what a gift.
        however, it's you who needs to be careful with your wording.

        "Still I think you should be more careful with your wording. I think everyone, even cold hearted government officials, value the lives of precious children."

        you are skeptical of statistics and so i won't link to any, but you may be interested in the following which supports my research that there is an overwhelming gap in accountability between policy makers – the cold hearted gov't officials as it were – and the people caring for the children.

        January 29, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • SCFosterParent

      By the way, what do you propose as an alternative to the foster care system?

      January 28, 2012 at 9:11 pm |
      • Missing the Point


        You did not carefully read my post. I did say that we should retry the orphanage. They actually worked. The foster care system was supposed to be better, but it is a failed experiment that no one really wants to admit has failed. if it overwhelmed, then should we let it continue to ruin lives?

        Secondly, I point out that we are a nation that has committed atrocities against the weak (we still do, at the tune of 1 million aborted babies each year) and that we are capable of reducing foster children (and others such as the elderly) into mere numbers or dollars. There are people right now contemplating how to ration health care, allowing some to die because they are old and unproductive, in favor of treating the young and useful. If we tolerate killing babies in the womb simply because they are inconvenient, it is a short step to killing them outside of the womb because they are inconvenient or a burden to the system. Right now, 90% of Down Syndrome babies are aborted because they are deemed as a burden to society, so we Americans are already looking at human life in terms of costs and benefits. I am in no way advocating these atrocities, just pointing out that our society is capable of doing these things and that the government loves money and not people.

        I will conclude as I did before: These foster children are human beings. They have dignity even if they have no family, no money, or no lobbyists in the District of Corruption.

        January 28, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
      • Missing the Point


        Forgot to say two things: First, thank you for being a foster parent. I suspect that you are a good one. Secondly, you say "I think everyone, even cold hearted government officials, value the lives of precious children." You are kind for thinking so, but I think the state of the foster care system disproves this kind sentiment.

        January 28, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
      • J.D.

        Less sheeple and more oversight and attention to facts.

        January 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Shane

      The only thing I just heard is "how great is the value of the unconditional love of our parents..."

      January 29, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  27. Tina

    Thank you t3ch support; I agree Lara. If only that were a federal system. I also experienced foster care and a traumatic childhood. I had no support from anyone even though I returned to my family (my life reflects it). The Oregon program is more needed in this country than words can express.

    January 28, 2012 at 7:13 pm |
  28. Anne Clare

    As a Master's graduate of the University of AL School of Social Work and having a daughter who did the same thing, I am so proud to have these former Foster Children join our ranks. I was a child protective services for 14 years and you will never know how this story warms my heart.

    January 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  29. peggy

    Nice, heartwarming story for a wintry day. Keep it up.

    January 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  30. randumb guy

    Despite all the foster care horror stories you read on CNN, its important to realize that as a rule foster parents care about the kids placed with them. One of the great tragedies is that some agencies really try to avoid culture shock by placing kids in foster families that are socio-economically different than the original families. For example, given two foster families - a foster family is well off financially may be anti-selected because it would be a culture shock to place a child from poverty into a home where milk is on the table at every meal. A singularly harsh truth: if kids are not food-secure, it is incredibly difficult to be an academic rock star.

    Remember this: the goal of the foster care system is to get kids back to their original families. To achieve that goal, parents have to raise their performance from failing with an F to passing with a D-. Most foster families are going to do better than D- at raising kids.

    January 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Suze

      They SHOULD put the kids with families that are better off financially! Sure it might be a shock at first, but it gives them something to strive for when/if they go back home. They learn that there is more out there than just the projects and the streets.

      January 28, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
      • Mike

        Character cannot be bought by a buck but a buck can and DOES destroy one's character!

        January 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  31. t3chsupport

    So so proud of our Oregon legislature, for passing House Bill 3471 – which requires Oregon universities and colleges to waive tuition and fees for foster youths applying to their programs as well as directs the Oregon Student Assistance Commission to give them preference for Oregon Opportunity Grants. Participating students will be required to complete 30 hours of community service each year, probably mentoring other foster children considering applying for college.

    Foster children are children of the state. It is not their fault. They are looked after by the state, when the state takes them away from their parents, so the state should pick up the tab as good parents do – send them to school, give them a chance.

    Many people will see this as a 'handout' for lazy people, but that's ridiculous. 20% of people, when they are released from state care, are homeless within a year. That's one in five kids living on the street, not getting an education, and likely ending themselves up in jail. Is that somehow better than the ounce of prevention that would be helping our most afflicted better themselves, and better their communities? Just turning 18 does not make someone an adult, that's just the age they can be considered such. But they are still kids, and they still need help and support and guidance. No one gets to pick their parents. We are a better society for protecting and helping those who cannot do so for themselves, and teaching them to do it for themselves and others.

    January 28, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Lara

      II am glad that Oregon is forward thinking enough to help them. It should be federal if you ask me.

      January 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • ChrisTeeee

      Very well said!

      January 28, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • Jill

      Hm, I think right before my daughter turns 18 yrs, I will make that 'annoymous' call to CPS for "abandonment" myself! For her best interests, I'd rather see her tuition paid in FULL at that point! I think that it opens up a whole other can of worms here! If ALL children in our country cannot be equally afforded a FULL college tuition, then it should not be afforded to anyone!

      January 29, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
      • A High Schooler

        That is abusing a fantastic opportunity that is afforded to Oregonian foster children, I live in Oregon and I have a situation that is just a half step away from foster parents, yet I would never advocate nor would I allow someone to pay for my college when I never had to face the movement between homes. This bill is a great thing most foster children will not use it you have to realize though. The OUS still restricts to the university standards, the lowest state school GPA is at Western Oregon university which is a 2.75 so that weeds out quite a large portion of high schoolers and that is just the lowest standard mist of the other schools require a 3.0 or 3.25 so qualifications must still be met. Give these foster children a break they have already had enough troubles this is there opportunity and Oregon will have some sort of fallback plan presumably something along the lines of at least three years spent in a foster home.

        January 30, 2012 at 4:30 am |
  32. Lara

    II entered foster care at 11 also. It was my experience with foster care that led me to my college degree, not the other way around. Had I remained with my family of origin, I doubt I would have ever even fathomed going to college. I was one of the fortunate ones however. Foster kids generally outgrow the system without tools for living an ordinary life let alone going to college. Support for these kids until 21 or longer is crucial if a larger percentage are to succeed in life.

    January 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • SCFosterParent

      I am so happy for you, Lara! Please try to become a mentor for kids in situations similar to yours. Older foster children have the toughest time, and having someone like you who has been through the struggles they're going through could really make a difference.

      January 28, 2012 at 9:10 pm |
    • Dr. Luyen Nguyen

      I was in 4 diferent foster homes from age 11-17. Went to college with a bicycle and $200. At UCSD in La Jolla, CA was tough. Most student came from well to do family with nice car. Had 3 part time jobs simultaneously while in school. one of them was to clean 20 toilets at the Univ. student center every morning before classes. Although I was a student but always felt like I was outside looking in and did not belongs with these student with perfect family. Talk about insecure, unsecure, lonely, and culture shock too. Oh, don't forget inferiorty complex. This is reality of foster children. The biggest assest I had at the time was determination and ambition.
      Other than that, I was just another "wanabe". It is sad but true.
      Finally, I granduated from Northwestern Univ. in Chicago.
      Currently, I live and practice in Naples, Fl. and volunteer in oral surgery in Central and S. America
      for the poor. Hope to retire before 50 so I can do more volunteer work. Dr. Nguyen

      January 29, 2012 at 3:32 pm |