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Foster children speak about lack of stability, trust in foster system

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Posted: Fri, Oct 7, 2011 : 5:57 a.m

Inconsistent relationships with social workers, a lack of mentors and a system that breeds distrust in others were among the problems that foster children say need to be fixed.

About 20 people gathered Thursday for the Save Our Children Coalition forum at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Pittsfield Township to discuss how the faith-based community and other volunteers in Washtenaw County can better help foster children in the area.

Five current and former foster children spoke about their experiences, pointing out areas they believe can be improved and speaking about the few positives they experienced as well.

Alexis Alexander, a senior at Eastern Michigan University, became a foster child at 13 and has now aged out of the foster system. Her mom abused drugs and wasn’t able to take care of her, and her experiences have inspired her to seek a career in social work. She expects tograduate in December with a communications degree.

“I knew I had to be better than where I came from,” Alexander said.

The Save Our Children Coalition is a part of the University of Michigan’s School of Education.

One problem foster children faced during their experiences in the foster child system was the lack of stability. Each of the children spoke about being bounced from social worker to social worker and foster home to foster home, leading to a deep distrust in people.

DeAndre Booker, a 19-year-old student at Ann Arbor Technical High School, said he entered a residential foster home when he was 16 and watched workers at the home cuss at the children who lived there. He said that atmosphere made him lose respect for those workers.

Booker said the atmosphere in residential homes can be so bad that he sometimes felt less than human there.

“To an extent, you’re treated like an animal,” he said. “You feel like you’re in a zoo because everyone is flying around and doing this and that.”

Booker and three of the other foster children who spoke at the forum now are in independent living arrangements and work with a social worker from Fostering Futures, a non-profit organization that serves families and children in the foster system. Now that he lives on his own, Booker said the one thing he feels like he lacks the most is someone to talk to and guide him through life’s daily struggles.

He said he’s faced up to the fact that he’s an adult and has to take control of his life if he wants to be successful. However, it’s difficult to feel like there’s no one he can call and talk to about his problems, or have someone to rely on if something goes wrong.

The panel discussion also revealed that many of the children who live in independent residences are in need of such basic furniture as beds, lamps and tables. The stipend each receives is barely enough to cover rent and leaves little spending money for many other basic necessities, according to the panel.

The discussion also included how to improve morale among foster children, with ideas such as holiday dinners and birthday celebrations — something those in foster families don’t get to experience that often.

Katie Page Sanderson, director of the Save Our Children Coalition, said there is no program to help foster children find mentors in Washtenaw County. The coalition, which began in 2007, holds meetings around southeastern Michigan to raise awareness about the foster system.

She said the lack of mentors is one opportunity for churches and other volunteer organizations to get involved with the foster child system.

“This crisis is not on the minds of many congregations and faith communities, and it needs to be,” she said.

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached atkylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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Written by dawneworswick

October 7, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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