Friday, December 14, 2007

Foster children are not "pound puppies"

Caption: This is NOT a foster child!

In Omaha, Nebraska, a nineteen-year-old boy walked into a mall with a semi-automatic assault rifle, and killed eight people before turning the gun on himself.

He was immediately christened "a lost puppy."

This is ridiculous.

Robert Hawkins wasn't a puppy - or even more offensive "a pound puppy, he was a person.

Current and former foster children aren't pets - we are people:

1. We can't be sent away to kennels on holidays if group home staff or foster parents want to "just have friends over and have the place to myself."

2. We can't be kept on a leash, and as we enter into young adulthood, but rather should be allowed the freedom and support to build a positive circle of friends, often through involvement in sports or other school activities

3. And, unlike "dumb animals," we are responsible for our actions.

“To be truly free, we have to be accountable, to be able to answer for ourselves and our decisions” (Alan W. Jones, SoulMaking).

Robert Hawkins made a terrible choice. It was wrong; it was misguided - and it was irrevocable.

And it was selfish. In his suicide note, he said, "Now I'll be famous."

This is the type of action that perpetuates the stigma of foster care. Despite the stereotype, not every former foster child winds up being some type of criminal.

Many of us grow up to build families. We provide for our children in a way that we were not provided for... protect them in a way that we were not protected. We work to learn new patterns of behavior so that we will not repeat the cycle of abuse.

Many of us strive to make a positive difference for the 'next generation' of foster children.

For example, during the week of Thanksgiving, members of Foster Care Alumni of America from all over the country met with Congressional representatives and then had a Thanksgiving dinner on the Capitol lawn, in order to propose positive changes to improve the foster care system.

Over 1000 media outlets were contacted about this event -- and the turnout was much less than I had expected.

In the meantime, there are countless articles about this tragedy.

It's saddens me that destructive behavior attracts more press coverage than proactive action.

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Truly spoken: however, it seems like our entire society is bent on praise and condemnation. You do something wrong, you get publicly condemned for it. That means you give the person committing the wrong a lot of publicity, and you hope it works against them.

Being proactive is harder. It takes an unusual sort to care so deeply so consistently for so many others.
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