Helping Your Birth and Other Children Get Along

By Mellicent Blythe , Fostering Perspectives

https://fosteringperspectives.org/fp_v11n2/blythe.htm

One aspect of fostering that does not get much study is how best to integrate the children in foster care into a family’s rhythm of life and just how crucial this is for the well-being of everyone in the home. This article reveals findings from a study along with some implications that can be used in practical ways.

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Day in the Park Festival

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We are so excited to be participating in the 48th Annual Day in the Park Festival! Make your plans now to join the fun this Saturday and stop by our booth to say hello!

Day in the Park returns to the Piedmont for its 48th festival with fun-filled, family-oriented entertainment, crafts, food and much more on Saturday, September 21. Nestled in the beautiful High Point City Lake Park, the festival is presented by the High Point Arts Council in cooperation with the High Point Parks & Recreation Department. Day in the Park is a long standing tradition that has been celebrating the arts longer than any other festival in Guilford County, NC.

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The festival will be held from 11:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m. and the park is located at 602 W. Main Street in Jamestown. Admission is free!

http://highpointarts.org/arts/community-outreach-programs/day-in-the-park/

How To Make Initial Placements Easier

By Rochelle Johnson

FosteringPerspectives.org

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“The initial placement of a child in our home is often an exciting time. For many of us, it is the first introduction to a young person that will be living with us for days, months, or sometimes years. In a perfect world, the logistics of welcoming that child into our family would be clearly presented and carefully organized so we could focus on the important goal of making the child’s transition as easy and smooth as possible.

However, we don’t live in a perfect world. Initial placements can be rocky, hurried, and filled with informational gaps about a child’s history, basic necessities, and emotional needs. Here are a few tips and tools to help alleviate stress on foster parents, with the ultimate goal of helping you focus on what we as foster parents have all set out to do: provide kids with a nurturing and safe environment to help them grow and heal.”

Read the rest of this article for 5 steps that can help make initial placements much easier. http://fosteringperspectives.org/?p=1649

Be A Pam

By Melissa Holland

Last week I had the privilege of visiting with a woman who is known in her County for her generosity and compassion.  She believes that we are put on earth to be of service to others, and she lives out this belief every day.  Pam, who is in her 70s and has grown children, saw a need five years ago and decided to take action.

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Julie, who was 11 months old at the time, had been removed from her home due to her parents' drug and alcohol abuse which caused them to neglect her care.  Before her retirement, Pam had worked in the child support office of the county, and knew well the ins and outs of foster care.  The people involved in placing Julie felt that it would be difficult to find a family willing to take her due to her parents' and grandparents' connections to drug dealers in the area.  As it turns out, they were right to worry.  Several families expressed interest in Julie only to refuse to take her once they found out about her background.  

Enter Pam.  Pam told me that she had missed having children around at Christmas because it seemed so much less exciting without them.  Of course, that wasn't her main reason for wanting Julie.  Pam said that she feared that Julie would not have any chance at a successful life if she didn't have the stability and opportunities that Pam could provide for her.  While she could only guess what Julie might have suffered, she soon discovered that Julie suffers from PTSD.  She does not want to be alone.  Recently, Pam set up a playroom for Julie, but she refuses to play in it.  She always plays in the room where everyone else is, and creates a "barricade" to protect herself in case she needs it. 

Julie will attend a co-op school this year where she can be just another little girl.  Not the daughter of parents who are notorious in the county.  Not a girl who will be bullied or looked down on for things she cannot control.  A girl with a loving family who is curious about nature, who loves animals, who lives life to the fullest. 

Pat loved Julie even before they became a family.  Over time, that love has grown even though it has been tested many times.  When I left Pam's house, I wondered how many Julies are waiting for their Pam to show up.  Some Julies are still children, but some are all grown up.  All of them deserve a chance to know what it is to be loved unconditionally.  To know that God loves them and that Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice for them. 

As Jesus followers, we should keep watch for the Julies.  Maybe God put them in our path for us to be a Pam.  

*Names have been changed




Foster Care to College: A Crisis We Can Solve

TEDx Talks

Published on May 3, 2017

Dr. Robert Duke has been a foster parent since 2011. During that time, he has served on the Director's Council for the Department of Children and Family Services in Los Angeles County, which serves the largest community of foster children in the nation. Robert currently serves as the dean of the School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University.

Book Recommendation: ​ReFraming Foster Care

Leah Tripp

Jason Johnson’s 2018 book, ReFraming Foster Care : Filtering Your Foster Parenting Journey Through the Lens of the Gospel is an honest, yet hopeful look into the world of foster care through Johnson’s own experience as a foster parent.

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The book is a collection of reflections on the lessons Johnson and his wife, Emily have learned through their years foster parenting. Johnson boldly addresses the fears, trials, and grief associated with foster care and parenting, but also openly speaks of the necessity of gospel centered foster parents and the healing the process can bring, not just for foster children, but for foster parents as well.

Johnson’s book brings breathes new life into the discussion of foster care by discussing the various parallels between the gospel of Christ and the potential for ministry within the foster care. Johnson’s focus is never on the heroism or sacrifice of foster parents themselves, but rather, on the calling that God places in the hearts of believers to carry out the mission of loving others fully and well.

Johnson’s book has received glowing reviews, both from critics and everyday readers. Declared by one reader as a “must read for anyone involved in the foster care process,” ReFraming Foster Care is a worthy purchase for those currently foster parenting, those who are considering becoming foster parents, or those who seek to gain a better understanding of how to help foster families within their community.

Each chapter of Johnson’s book contains personal reflection questions and a group discussion guide so that the concepts included in the book can be discussed with spouses, family members, or small groups.

To learn more about Johnson’s journey in the foster care system, or to purchase your copy ofReFraming Foster Care, visit Johnson’s website.

What is Kinship Care?

Leah Tripp

When talking about foster care and adoption, it can be easy to get lost among the many labels that apply to different forms of care. Kinship care is a term that is often used within the world of foster care, but may not be fully understood.

Kinship care occurs when a child who has been removed from their parents is placed under the care and supervision of another relative (stepparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, etc), or in some states, under the care of a close family friend (who are often called fictive kin).

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In many situations, kinship care is the desired option, as it allows the children who are being removed from their parents to retain their connection with their family. While kinship care is not always an option, it often provides the child with a greater sense of stability while still allowing them to maintain cultural traditions, which makes it a preferable situation in many cases.

Since kinship care often involves a legal and/or biological tie to the child, the eligibility process varies based on case. In some situations, kinship care is “formal,” meaning that the child(ren) involved are legally removed from the home of their biological parents and taken into the custody of the State. This requires the child welfare agency, along with the court system, to find a caregiver to place the child with, beginning with immediate relatives. Because this process is intimately tied to the legal system, formal kinship caregivers must complete a training and licensure process, while also providing financial compensation and other supportive services.

In other situations, kinship care can be informal, or “voluntary,” meaning that the State has not taken legal custody of the children, but the biological parents of the child, typically under the advisement of child welfare agencies, have voluntarily placed their children with a relative. Custody status may change over time in these situations, but at the start, voluntary kinship care is defined by the fact that biological

parents have willingly temporary relinquished their full-time care of the child. Because the legal process of voluntary care is not as strenuous, many voluntary kinship caregivers do not have to go through the training and licensure process.

The ultimate goal of kinship care is reunification with the biological parents. However, the return of the child to his or her original home is not always an option. In these cases, many kinship caregivers are given the option to adopt the child they have been caring for. As with any form of foster care or adoption, the primary goal of kinship care is to provide the safest and most stable environment for the child involved.

Helpful Books for Foster Children

Leah Tripp

Children who are in foster care often experience confusion and fear regarding the process of care, the trauma they have experienced, and the often temporary nature of the homes they are living in.

There are a wide variety of resources that help foster parents and mentors tackle the difficult topics of foster care. Below are three books that may be helpful for foster children of different age groups.

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Riley the Brave- Jess Sinarski (Ages 3-7)
Riley the Brave f ollows the story of brave bear cub, Riley, as he learns to understand complicated feelings like fear, shame, and sadness. Riley spends time with many different animal friends, and reflects on how to process anger in a healthy way by using his words. The book also addresses tough topics that are specific to foster children, such as trusting adults, food insecurity, and how to talk about trauma.

The book’s colorful illustrations paired with fun animal characters will allow children to talk about fear and courage in a way that still allows them to feel safe and comfortable.

Locomotion- Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 8-12)
Woodson’s Locomotion follows is the story of eleven-year-old Lonnie, who is living in a foster home after the death of his parents. With the help of his foster mother, Miss Edna, and his teacher, Ms. Marcus, Lonnie learns to express his feelings through poetry. The book is told entirely through Lonnie’s poems, and covers complex topics such as loss, fear, separation from siblings, and the experiences of older boys in foster care.

Far from the Tree- Robin Benway (Ages 13+)
Benway’s 2017 novel explores the meaning of family through the lives of biological siblings Grace, Maya, and Joaquin, who, through foster care and adoption experiences, are living very different lives.

When Grace places her own daughter up for adoption, she starts looking for her biological family, and begins to form relationships with her younger sister, Maya and her older brother Joaquin. Maya, who has been adopted into a family that has its own set of problems, struggles to find her own identity and the family in which she feels she belongs. Joaquin, who has spent seventeen years in foster care, is skeptical of his sisters and of the world in general. Throughout the book, the three siblings learn about the different shapes that family can take, and how to love despite difficult circumstances.

These three books are a small sample of the wide array of literature available for foster children of all ages. For a more complete list of books with foster care themes, visit the link below:

https://bookriot.com/2016/05/27/childrens-books-foster-care-themes/

Understanding Trauma

Leah Tripp

Terms like “trauma” often conjure up images of terrible accidents, violence, or war in our minds. We tend to associate the concept of trauma with a singular event that inflicts deep psychological pain.

However, trauma can often be a product of ongoing negative experiences, and many children who have been adopted or are in foster care have experienced trauma of some kind. In order to love and care for these children in the healthiest way possible, it is important to understand the way trauma impacts emotional and psychological well-being.

Childhood trauma can be caused by a variety of situations, but most often hinges on experiences of abuse (verbal or physical) and neglect. Abuse and neglect have a long lasting impact on children due to the fact that these traumas occur while they are still cognitively developing.

Children who experience neglect and abuse during their formative years are receiving mixed messages regarding who to trust, what behavior is appropriate, and how to interact with people as a whole. The people they naturally trust (parents), have put them in danger in one way or another, thus making it difficult for them to identify what is safe and what is not.

In some instances, this instability can cause changes in a child’s brain structure. According to Counseling Today, children that are exposed to chronic neglect and abuse begin perceiving everything as a threat in order to defend themselves, which alters the prefrontal cortex. Their brain is constantly in “survival mode” rather than “learning mode,” which sometimes makes it more difficult for them to develop cognitive skills at a normal rate.

It is vital to understand that any child who has been removed from their biological parents has experienced trauma in some way. The severity of this trauma ranges based on situation, but it is there nonetheless.

Recent studies have shown that even infants, who are often deemed “too young to remember,” experience trauma.

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According to the Center for Youth and Family Solutions, unborn babies are capable of auditory processing as early as the second trimester. This means that when a child is born and then removed from the voice that they heard in utero, their brain experiences confusion and depravity.

While it is important to understand the instances and effects of trauma, it is also important to realize that the symptoms of emotional trauma can be decreased through coping strategies and interventions by the child’s caretakers.

While counseling and other professional interventions are highly recommended, emotional support on behalf of family members, foster parents, and adoptive parents is vital to helping a child who has experienced trauma.

Often, childhood trauma is a result of repeated patterns of instability. Therefore, showing a child who has experienced trauma that they are in a safe, secure environment with people who love and care for them is integral to the process of growth and healing. If you’d like to be a part of providing a child with stability and safety, consider reaching out to AGAPE of North Carolina regarding foster care, adoption, or respite care.

For more information regarding childhood trauma and parenting, visit the U.S. Children’s Bureau for resources.

“We Focus on the Future”: A Conversation with Fay Evans

Leah Tripp

From the moment Fay Evans answers the phone, I can tell that I’m in for a blessing.

Her compassion and charisma is evident within the first few minutes of our conversation. When I ask her how long she’s been involved with helping young adults, she laughingly tells me of her daughter’s remark to her many years before:

“Mama, you’re always bringing someone else’s children home.”

Evans, who is currently the resident foster parent for AGAPE’s Young Adult Foster Home in Raleigh, tells me that she’s been working with teens in some capacity for most of her life. Whether it be through mentoring programs, church affiliation, or family connections, she’s always had a passion for helping young adults bridge the gap into adulthood.

A resident of Virginia for most of her life, Evans says that in 2005, God took her passion for young adults and used it in a new way- to have her to help and guide young women. Evans said the Lord called her to North Carolina, telling her to show young women His love through her own heart.

So Evans picked up her life and moved, a decision that she admits was easy to question at times.

Determined to discover God’s purpose for her, she began calling local foster care and adoption agencies. Some agencies didn’t get back to her, while others just didn’t feel like the right fit. Eventually, she found AGAPE of North Carolina.

“I kept seeing AGAPE, feeling like I needed to call... When I talked with Kim, we just had a connection, like we were both looking for each other.”

Evans’ partnership with AGAPE led to her being placed as the resident foster parent for AGAPE’s Young Adult Foster Home for women in Raleigh; an experience that Evans says is challenging, but rewarding.

She explains that caring for and guiding young adults is different because they have already formed their own opinions, personalities, and value systems. The process of learning each other’s likes, dislikes, and triggers has been a process, but it reaps reward as well.

“Days when you see them excited because they cooked a meal or filled out an application- those days make it worthwhile... If I can help one or two, I know my call is not in vain”

Her determination to guide young women has been a long time coming; she recounts the concern she felt when watching her niece, who was also a foster parent, work with young adults who were aging out of the system.

“I had never done foster care in my life, but I had the feeling those kids weren’t ready. They needed more tools, and they didn’t have them yet”

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That is Evans’ ultimate goal: to give her girls the love and the tools they need to create options for themselves. She tells me that she knows that they will make mistakes, but she wants them to have enough resources to be able to recover from those errors and try again.

Evans recognizes the importance of second chances in homes like hers. However, she tells me that the girls recognize the beauty of second chances as well.

“I’ve heard one or two say that they are so thankful for a new beginning.”

As our conversation comes to a close, I ask Evans how she’s seen the girls she’s worked with over the years grow and change. Her answer is simple, but poignant: they begin to think of their futures.

She explains that when the girls come into the home, they often have no clue what they want to do with their lives, but now, when she sits and talks with them, they have goals. They have hopes of college, of owning their own cars, of eventually having their own homes. They have hope that their lives can be in their own control.

“Around here, we talk some of the past, but we focus on the future.”

Share Your Story: An Opportunity for Foster Youth

Leah Tripp

Sharing stories is a vital part of building and finding community.

FosterClub, an organization that strives to provide foster children and youth with a network of peers and mentors, is currently holding a contest that is based on the powerful impact of storytelling.

The contest, called the “Creative Expression Contest,” is taking submissions from any youth under the age of 25 that has experienced foster care.

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The theme of the contest is “Finding Your People: How Foster Youth Connect.” Contestants are encouraged to focus their entries on the process of finding peers within foster care, the importance of connecting with others who have experienced the complexities of foster care, and how finding a community within the foster care system has equipped them to better serve those around them.

Submissions can be in any form of writing (essay, poem, etc), but must be under 500 words and written in English. While a trusted adult can help with the development of the submission, the content of the entry should be that of the contestant.

Entries for the Creative Expression Contest are due on April 30th, 2019. Each creator of a work that is published by FosterClub will receive a $25 Amazon gift card.

If you or someone you know has experienced foster care and would like to share their story via FosterClub’s contest, visit their site here for a more detailed list of entry guidelines.

Summer Camps for Foster Children

Leah Tripp

Summer will be here before we know it, which means summer camp sign ups are approaching as well!

If you or someone you know are currently fostering a child, consider the following local camps who specialize in experiences that nurture spiritual, emotional, and social growth in a way that is specific to children in foster care.

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The Bridge Camp

The Bridge Camp is sponsored by Least of These Carolinas, and serves children 8-18 years old who are currently in foster care, or have exited foster care in the last year. The camp is held at Crowders Ridge in Gastonia, North Carolina, and runs for a week every summer. Registration is required to attend, and includes a $10 application fee.

The goal of The Bridge Camp is to provide foster children with a community of people who understand their situation, and to communicate the fact that children in foster care are not alone. The Bridge has trained counselors, as well as mentors who have aged out of the foster care system, and involves campers in outdoor activities, community building, and other traditional “camp” events.

To find out more about The Bridge Camp, visit this link:

https://lotcarolinas.com/programs-services/the-bridge-camp

Journey Camp

Journey Camp and Journey Junior Camp are programs sponsored by Under One Sky Village Foundation, an Asheville-based organization that provides children to children who have been or are currently in foster care.

The organization sponsors three camp weekends and one week-long overnight camp. Journey Camp serves foster children ages 11-17, while Journey Junior serves foster children ages 7-10.

Both Journey Camps include workshops for campers that allow them to learn new things, such as skills that will assist them in social and career situations. In addition, campers participate in talking circles, group discussion, team-building activities, recreational outings, and complete camp chores that teach responsibility and cooperation.

The camp lasts twelve days, and staff are highly trained counselors, along with camp mentors who have been through the foster care system. Journey Camp is held at Lutheridge Camp and Conference Center, while Journey Junior takes place at Black Mountain Children’s Home.

For more information on Journey and Journey Junior, visit the Under One Sky Village Foundation at https://www.under1sky.org/journey--junior-journey-camp.html

Royal Family KIDS

Royal Family KIDS sponsors camps for foster children ages 6-12 across the United States. These camps are sponsored by local churches and consist of a week-long camp experience that is focused on building self-esteem and healthy behaviors through a variety of activities, including hiking, sports, swimming, skits, and tea-parties.

The camp is focused on individuality, and has a 1:2 counselor-camper ratio. Churches, directors, and counselors go through intensive training to ensure that campers are in an environment that makes them feel safe and understood.

There are currently two Royal Family KIDS camps in Wake County, North Carolina: one is held at North Haven Chapel in Raleigh, while the other at Raleigh First Assembly Church.

To learn more about Royal Family KIDS, please visit their website here: https://rfk.org/camps/

Foster Care FAQs

Leah Tripp

As of 2017, there are 10,500 children in the North Carolina foster care system. This number has been steadily increasing over time, and the need for foster parents in North Carolina is evident.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a foster parent, AGAPE of North Carolina would love to help you begin that journey. Below are some frequently asked questions regarding foster parenting and AGAPE’s role in foster care.

1. What are AGAPE’s requirements for foster parenting?

  • Foster parents must be at least 21 years old

  • Foster parents must be in good health

  • Foster parents must be Christians

  • If married, foster parents must have been married for at least two years.

  •  Both parents are permitted to work outside the home.

  •  Foster parents can be single parents.

    2. What is the process for licensure?

    AGAPE abides by state regulations and agency guidelines to match children with foster families. Families who are interested in fostering will submit an application and will be contacted by a caseworker.

    The caseworker assigned to you and/or your family will begin the evaluation process, which will typically take about three months. This process will include interviews, home inspections, and background checks.

    At the end of the process, the caseworker will give your family guidelines regarding the number of children that can be in the home, the ages of the child(ren), and any specifications regarding gender or special needs.

    3. What children are in foster care?

    Most children in foster care have been removed temporarily from their homes due to a threat to their safety (i.e. abuse or neglect). Additionally, some children in foster care have been given to an adoption agency, and are in foster care during the legal process of terminating parental rights.

    The age range of children in foster care can span from newborn to 18 years old. Some children are placed individually, while others are part of a sibling group. The majority of foster children have experienced some type of physical and/or emotional trauma, and therefore are in need of a stable, loving environment, even if that home is temporary.

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4. How long will the placement be?

The time spent in foster care varies from child to child. Some children are in care for a few days, while others are in care for years. The average AGAPE placement is in care for about eight months. During the licensing process, potential foster families will be able to discuss what placement lengths are preferred for them and their family.

5. How will I prepare to foster for the first time?

You will not be walking into your first placement unprepared. During the licensing process, potential foster parents will complete 30 hours of training that is specific to the age and situation of the child who will be placed.

After fostering begins, AGAPE staff is still on-call to help with any questions or concerns, and caseworkers will routinely be visiting and checking in with you and your family to provide guidance.

6. Is there financial compensation?

While foster parenting is a volunteer-based experience, AGAPE does provide reimbursement per month, per child to compensate for expenses directly related to the child and his or her care.

This reimbursement is meant to cover the basic needs of the child, and may change depending on age or situation (for example, older children may receive a clothing allowance). Additionally, foster families are not responsible for paying for the child’s medical expenses.

7. How do I get started?

If you, or someone you know is interested in foster care, contact AGAPE of NC at 919-673-7816, or visit our website at agapeofnc.org.

Your first meeting with AGAPE is not an obligatory commitment to foster care, and will consist of talking through information to figure out if fostering is right for you and your family.

We would love to hear from you!

Staff Spotlight: Kia Carter

Leah Tripp

Kia Carter is passionate about community.

As a social worker with AGAPE of North Carolina for a little over 2 years, Carter has seen just how important relationships, community, and connection are within foster families, but also within the agency itself.

Carter’s steadfast belief in the life-giving quality of community has led her to implement several initiatives, new to AGAPE this year, to nurture growth and connection among foster families.

One of these initiatives combines education and technology, as Carter is attempting to create an online study book for foster parents who are in the process of receiving their continuing education hours. Carter’s career as a social worker has shown her just how helpful support programs like this can be for busy families.

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“I know it can be hard to get the 10 hours that they need every year to continue their licensing, so I want to try and make it as convenient as I can with information that I know will be helpful for all of our foster parents.”

Carter also speaks to the importance of AGAPE’s quarterly connection gatherings as a means for foster families to support one another. These meetings allow foster parents within the agency to meet one another and share advice and encouragement. Carter explains that these meetings allow foster parents to support one another through challenges, and celebrate together in victories.

In addition to providing community for current foster families, these gatherings also give Carter hope for the future in terms of implementing a mentoring program for new foster parents. She explains that while she, as a social worker, can offer practical advice and experience, she realizes the value in hearing from someone who has truly been where you are.

“When you have someone who has gone before you and done what you are in the process of doing it is nice to have someone to talk to that gets it.”

While the concept of a mentoring program is still in the works, Carter explains that any program that creates community has its root in the gospel, and therefore, is worth creating and cultivating within an organization like AGAPE, which Carter says functions as a family in itself. AGAPE functions like a tight-knit family, and therefore seeks to create communities for those involved with its services.

Carter ends by sharing her ultimate motivation for her upcoming initiatives: her faith.

“Community is life-giving—and essential to following Christ. Scripture says that’s because we’re better together than we are alone.”

Christina Meredith Talks Foster Care on The Today Show

Leah Tripp

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Christina Meredith is a woman of many titles: college student, member of the U.S. Army, former Miss California, and most recently, a published author.

For many years, Meredith could also be identified by another title: “ward of the court.”

At age 16, Meredith was removed from the care of her mother and uncle, an environment that included a wide variety of abuse. Meredith was one of ten siblings, and after reporting the long-standing abuse to authorities, she was placed in foster care.

While being removed from her home spared Meredith from the abuse she had been enduring for years, she soon aged out of the foster care system, leaving her homeless and living out of her car. She was 18 years old.

Despite the obstacles life continued to throw her way, Meredith refused to give in. She drove across the country in her car that doubled as her home, and in a stroke of good fortune, was scouted to participate in the Miss California Competition. In 2013, she won the competition.

From that moment, Meredith decided to use her platform and determination to reform issues within the foster care system. And that’s exactly what she’s doing.

On March 5th, Meredith appeared on The Today Show, talking about her upcoming book, CinderGirl, but also speaking to the number of foster youth who age out of the system with little to no support, many of them becoming homeless, just as Meredith was.

Meredith called the situation a “travesty,” explaining that if every church in the U.S. committed to eradicating the issue of homeless foster youth, they could do it.

Her appearance on The Today Show serves as a call to action for the American people, especially faith-based organizations, to open their eyes to the need of young adults in the foster care situation. Further, Meredith’s story points to the fact that every life has value, and that no life is too far gone to be redeemed and restored.

Meredith’s interview can be viewed here:

https://www.today.com/video/homeless-as-a-teen-woman-calls-for-foster-care-system-reform-145229318 7540

Meredith’s memoir, CinderGirl hit shelves on March 5th.