Monday, April 04, 2016

FOSTER YOUTH - Defying the Odds

"Former foster youth defies odds, determined to change the system" by April Brown and Mike Fritz, PBS NewsHour 3/29/2016


James Turner had a chance at a “forever family” when he was 8.  Placed in foster care at 18 months, Turner was nearly adopted by a Jamaican family he’d been living with, after bouncing between 17 other foster families in the Orlando, Florida, area before the age of 5.

But then he learned it would mean moving with the family to Jamaica.

“I would be leaving not only my school and the neighborhood that I grew up in, but also now my country, and I was old enough to know the different countries.  So I was like, there is no way, you know, there is no way I could do that,” said Turner, now 19.

Turner didn’t realize right away that decision would mean he’d be separated from the only family he’d ever felt part of.  But it soon became clear.

“As soon as I saw the mother with saddened eyes as she was packing my bags I [knew] I made a wrong decision.”

After moving between still more foster homes — some violent, according to Turner — he was living exclusively in group homes by the time he was 12.  After the frequent moves, many adults with varying degrees of caring and compassion coming in and out of his life, and some cruel treatment, Turner is now on a mission to change the foster care system for the better.

But first he must get through one of his greatest challenges thus far: college.

Turner has already achieved what few foster children have: going straight from graduation to a four-year college, in his case Florida State University in Tallahassee.  He is studying both business and film; business to learn how to improve the child welfare system, and film so he can tell his own story on the big screen.

He is no longer looking for a forever family in the traditional sense, though he does plan to marry and have children one day.  Right now he feels he has created his own.

“To me, what a forever family is, is whatever you make it,” Turner said.  “Every kid that was in foster care, every kid that I could relate with, they are my family now, they are adopted into me and I’m adopted into them.”

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