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.

Book Recommendation: Four Waifs on Our Doorstep

By Jordan Upton

Trisha Merry won a regional mother of the year competition and was titled “Mum in a Million” for her outstanding work as a foster care parent. Mrs. Merry has fostered over 700 children and adopted seven in her 50 years of experience.

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Mrs. Merry gained an excellent reputation as a foster care parent and was often the first call for emergency placements and large sibling groups. In 2015 she published a book, “Four Waifs on Our Doorstep” which described the last sibling group she and her husband fostered and eventually adopted.

Throughout the book, she voiced her frustration with certain authority figures who failed the children in her care. She constantly pushed them to do better, to keep her kids’ best interests at the forefront of all decisions. Using these difficult situations as more purpose for writing the book, Mrs. Merry explained:

“I’m hoping just one foster carer, just one adopter, one social worker, perhaps one social-work manager, one psychiatrist, one teacher, one whatever, will pick it up and read it and sit and think.”

While the book mentions some of the traumatic incidents that led to the children being placed in care and eventually on the adoption track, Mrs. Merry tried to keep the overall story hopeful and inspiring. She did not want to dwell on the kids’ past, but “loved being able to open their doors to life.” She focused on the future, the opportunities now available to those in her care.

When telling her now-adopted children about her reason for sharing their story, Mrs. Merry said:

“I would like a child who’s been in the care system, perhaps who’s just been kicked out at sixteen, to pick up our book and read it, and be inspired by how you’ve turned your lives around. I would like it to help them.”

For more information on “Four Waifs on Our Doorstep” see:

https://www.amazon.com/Four-Waifs-Doorstep-Trisha-Merry/dp/1471138453 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25325738-four-waifs-on-our-doorstep

Book Recommendation: Another Place at the Table

By Jordan Upton

Kathy Harrison used to struggle for an answer to the common question, “What do you do?” After decades of experience, Kathy now has a ready reply: “I do some writing and some teaching, but my important job is being a foster mother.”

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Kathy explores her family and life choices in her highly rated book, Another Place at the Table. Published in 2003, the book details many of Kathy’s experiences fostering children in need. At the time of publication, she had fostered 100 children. Now in 2018, she has fostered 153.

In her book, Kathy describes how she found her calling to “offer a small island of safety in an unsafe and terrifying world.” After raising three biological sons, Kathy went to work in a Head Start program. She dealt daily with children in need, seeing them placed in foster care and fast-tracked for adoption. She and her husband decided to foster-to-adopt a pair of siblings from the Head Start program, after which Kathy began her full-time commitment to foster care. “I chose to devote myself to caring for the state’s neediest children,” she wrote.

Kathy and her husband were awarded Massachusetts Foster Parents of the Year in 1996. In 2002 they were awarded the Goldie Rogers Memorial Award for embodying Goldie’s ‘spirit of dedication and commitment to foster parenting and advocacy efforts’. In 2003, Kathy was featured as one of People magazine’s ‘Heroes Among Us’.

Another Place at the Table is an excellent read for current foster parents, those considering becoming a foster parent, and those who are curious to know more about the system in general. Kathy writes about heartbreaking situations and difficult children but manages to keep a positive attitude and a sense of hopefulness. She believes in the goodness of people and the ability to make a positive impact on children’s lives through patience and compassion. Through her writing, Kathy empowers readers to “live a life that matters, a life that makes a difference”.

Read reviews and see why Another Place at the Table has been rated 4.2 out of 5 stars on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/391081.Another_Place_at_the_Table

Read more about Kathy Harrison here: http://www.helpourkidsinc.org/foster-hero-kathy-harrison/

Staff Recommendation: Wards

an Online Literary Magazine

By Jordan Upton

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Wards is an online literary magazine founded in 2017, publishing a new issue semiannually where each issue focuses on a specific, dramatic, and difficult aspect of life. Each issue is compiled of submissions of poems, creative fiction, and short nonfiction stories taken from writers who have first-hand experience in these areas. The first issue of Wards which was published in the Winter of 2018 focuses on the topic of fostering. The editor, Rebecca Ogle, writes in her opening notes:

“In this issue, we feature writers who were considered wards of the state as children in foster care....Person-first language places the person before his or her circumstances. When we say foster children, we label young people. Like many labels, “foster” comes with baggage and stereotypes that stick. When we put the person first by saying child in foster care, we remind everyone listening to consider the individual without prejudice, and without placing undue limitations on them. This is the spirit with which I approached Foster, and I intend to approach future issue themes in a person-first way.”

Following the issue on foster care, Wards has also taken submissions on fire, which they describe as “open to firefighters, including municipal firefighters, wilderness managers, and rescue crews; their families; and anyone who has protected people or property from fire; including victims of fire”, and are currently taking submissions on the topic of borders: “Open to immigrants and their children; also to border personnel, and residents of border towns.”

The first issue is free to download as a PDF, and submissions are open to be published in the following two editions. If you are interested in submitting, donating to help the magazine, learning more, or reading the submissions, go to https://www.wardslitmag.com/.

What NBC’s “This Is Us” Gets Right About Foster Care

Following Deja’s storyline and her accurate portrayal of a child in foster care

By Jordan Upton

1. Trash Bags for Travel

When Deja moves between foster homes, you see her carrying only a trash bag. Many children entering foster care do not have things of their own, especially suitcases. They are often provided with just a trash bag to gather what clothing and possessions they will take with them to foster care. There are many programs nationwide attempting to remedy this problem by providing children with backpacks and basic necessities when they enter foster care: AGAPE of NC’s Backpack Blessings; Things of My Very Own; Together We Rise

2. Parental Substance Abuse Problems

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Viewers are told through a social worker that Deja’s mom must successfully complete a rehab program and maintain sobriety at home before Deja can return. This is the reality for a majority of children entering foster care. The Center for Community Partnerships in Child Welfare of the Center for the Study of Social Policy reports that 45 to 88% of cases referred to child protective services have a parental substance abuse problem.

3. Mistreatment from Foster Parents

Deja is placed in a foster home with another girl, Raven. The foster dad frequently beats them, but when discussing the abuse, Raven says, “At least all he does is hit us.” Mistreatment of children in foster care is an issue nationwide, with studies finding that “in Oregon and Washington state ... nearly one third reported being abused by a foster parent or another adult in a foster home.”

4. Siblings are Often Separated

Though in the show Deja and Raven are friends, not siblings, they dreaded being separated. Deja reported the abuse in their previous home, and upon being removed, Raven was distraught that now they would be separated and may face worse obstacles alone. The National Center for Youth Law estimates that “over half of children in foster care nationwide have one or more siblings also in care.” Though studies show the benefits of keeping siblings together, it is often not possible, and some reports indicate that up to 75% of siblings in foster care are separated.

5. Reunification with Family Often Fails

Deja is reunited with her mother, only to later be pulled out of school by her social worker because her mother has been arrested. Deja must re-enter foster care, a common occurrence. Many “case plans” created for parents are overwhelming obstacles to getting their children back. Kevin Norell, a caseworker in Utah, writes that often “many plans are designed for failure.”

In addition to the backpack blessings program, AGAPE of NC also strives to combat these and other issues typically seen in foster care. The staff of AGAPE works closely with potential foster parents, ensuring they are trained and adequately equipped to care for children entering their homes and lives. They maintain contact and are always available as a resource to children and parents. AGAPE makes every effort to keep siblings together when placed in foster care homes and ease their transition as much as possible. It is the mission of AGAPE to provide compassionate Christian outreach and strengthen families one child at a time. 

Book Recommendation: Succeed Because of What You've Been Through

Rhonda Sciortino is a former foster child who emancipated from the child welfare system at age 16. She started in the insurance industry at 15 and started her own retail insurance agency at age 27. She has started organizations to help people and organizations that help abused children and dysfunctional families. Rhonda went from abandonment, abuse, and poverty to joy, peace, and financial prosperity. Rhonda desires to help others use the adversities in their lives as the stepping stones to their successes in every area of life.

Wait No More: One Family’s Amazing Adoption Journey

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This book by Kelly and John Rosati details the easy and hard of their adoption story.  In an interview by Focus on the Family, Kelly said "John and I like to encourage folks who are feeling that urge, that gentle pushing of the Lord’s hand at your back, to get involved with foster care or adoption. Don’t be afraid to go for it. There could be a child out there who needs you desperately. You could be the one to make a difference in his or her life. God may have a new adventure in store for your family. Be open. Follow where God leads."

If you feel that urge and are ready to get more information, please visit the foster care, adoption, and contact us pages here on our website.  We are eager to meet and work with you! 

Staff Recommendation: A Memoir that Powerfully Captures the Pain of Child Abuse

by Lydia Huth

If you want to increase your empathy for the hurting children in your community, find a copy of A Child Called It. The memoir is a powerful introduction to the life of a child abuse survivor, and it opens our eyes to what foster and adoptive children may have faced.

In A Child Called It, author Dave Pelzer shares the abuse he suffered as a young child. From age four, he was abused by his mother, both physically and emotionally. This was his life for eight years, until he was brought into foster care at age twelve.

The book was published in 1995, and was included on the New York Times Bestseller List for multiple years.

This recommendation was provided by Mr. Jerry Sprague, our social services coordinator. He notes that the book can be too intense for some readers, so it is advised that one reads with caution.  

Find a copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Child-Called-Childs-Courage-Survive/dp/1558743669