We surpassed our National Foster Care Awareness Month First Annual Pack A Backpack Drive™ goal by collecting 46 backpacks filled with personal hygiene items to teen males in foster homes, group homes, and homeless shelters during the month of May 2012. Thanks to our amazing donors, the backpacks were donated to KidsPeace, Prince George’s County Department of Social Services Independent Living Program, Hearts & Homes For Youth, DC Family and Youth Initiative and KOBA Institute, Inc, in the Washington Metropolitan area. Brooke Boersma hosted a drive on the west coast and delivered 10 backpacks to Creative Alternativesin Turlock, CA. Please our Pack A Backpack™ page for more information.
We are grateful to our generous donors. Thank you:
Our final blog post for our National Foster Care Month blog series on teen males is a profile of foster care alumni and Foster Focus Magazine publisher Christopher Chmielewski. Christopher was adopted at an early age and grew up in the “coal region” of Pennsylvania. He entered foster care as a teen and eventually “aged-out” of the system. Once Christopher aged out of foster care, he was expelled from school just a few weeks short of his high school graduation. This did not deter Christopher from continuing his education. He received his equivalency diploma and registered for college the day after achieving this goal. Christopher could have remained in foster care until age 21 but elected to leave because he had begun to feel like a burden on the foster parents who welcomed him into their family.
Rich Korb is an author and educator with 34 years experience working with youth in traditional and alternative schools, residential facilities, and juvenile detention centers. He has also served as an athletic coach. Rich is known as the “Behavior Answer Man”. He shares his wisdom through Pioneer Education Consulting.
As an Educator and Administrator he has supported youth in foster care to breakdown barriers to learning that include special education, school disruptions, and risk of drop out. Rich operates by the motto “creativity is necessary for success”. He says there is no youngster he can’t reach and no situation he won’t take on. This belief system has lead to his success with youth and is the foundation for his six step approach to youth engagement. The six steps are:
Exavier Pope owns The Pope Law Firm. He is a Sports & Entertainment Attorney, Media Personality, Fortune 500 Speaker and Peak Performance Strategist, Writer, Economic Developer, and former foster youth. Exavier shared his amazing story for our National Foster Care Awareness Month blog series on teen males.
Exavier’s foster mother, Emma Lily Mitchell, declared to him that it was his “God given right and destiny to become someone of great influence to impact change.” Exavier’s father was a pimp and his mother was a prostitute. Exavier, his twin sister, and older brother entered Ms. Mitchell’s home when Exavier was six weeks old. They remained in Ms. Mitchell’s care until Exavier was seven years old. Between the ages of seven and nine years old, they lived in an abusive home with their biological mother. At nine years old the children requested to return to Ms. Mitchell’s home and their request was granted.
Today we continue our National Foster Care Awareness Month blog series on teen males with the interview of another foster father with KidsPeace. Bob O’Connor and his wife Coco have been foster parents for 23 years. They have had short-term placements, long-term placements, and provided therapeutic foster care and respite care. They have been foster parents to about 10 males. Currently there are 2 teen males and 3 children under the age of 4 living in the home. Mikey has been with the family for 10 years. Mikey will turn 21 and age out of the system at the end of the month. Mikey’s biological sister aged out of care last year but is still with the O’Connor family. Both earned IEP diplomas. Nick is 18 years old and has been with the family for four years. He is interested in mechanics and will earn an IEP diploma. Bob knows that life can be tough for youth who age out of the system without support. He says he has never put anyone out and believes that there is great benefit in New York allowing youth in therapeutic foster care to remain in the system until age 21.
Today we continue our National Foster Care Awareness Month blog series on teen males in foster care by addressing mental health. Toni Hoy and her family have endured separation, loss of parental rights, and criminalization by the system put in place to protect children. Toni’s son, Daniel, has been placed in the Illinois foster care system twice. The first placement was as a result of severe neglect as an infant. At age 13, the Hoy family lost custody of Daniel and he was once again placed in foster care but this time in a residential facility.
Dorothy Cordero has been a foster mother for many years. I interviewed Dorothy and her foster son, Chris, for The Teen Toolbox National Foster Care Month blog series on teen males in foster care. Chris has been a part of Dorothy’s family for six years. There are two other male foster teens living in the home. Dorothy is passionate and compassionate. She epitomizes motherhood.
When asked about her experience with foster care in her home state of New York, Dorothy said it has been “great so far”. “I have been able to help kids succeed in life and provide a loving, nurturing home for them,” she continued. Chris agrees. Dorothy and Chris have a very good relationship. Dorothy took Chris in with open arms despite the foster care file that preceded his arrival. Chris has stated and Dorothy believes wholeheartedly that there were reports in his file that were untrue. The pair was only able to discover the untruths through open communication. They have bonded, respect each other, and even completed each other’s sentences during our interview.