May is Foster Care Awareness Month, so it seems a fitting time to admit that I, too, am a foster youth survivor. I entered into the system in my early teens and aged out, and I say 'survivor' because it feels like a war.
Please remember that you change lives every single day. You see things most 'regular people' pretend don't exist. You nurture broken hearts by day and fall asleep at night wishing only that you could have done more.
When I started One Simple Wish in 2008 a few people told me they probably wouldn't ever grant a wish because they didn't think giving kids "stuff" was really going to make much of a difference in their lives.
Before that terrible day 14 years ago, Austin was typical by most accounts. He was able to walk evenly, talk as well as any 2-year-old, and use both hands equally. He was happy and inquisitive, explored things eagerly, and enjoyed watching cartoons.
I had never seen the Mississippi River up close, with its picture-perfect views until I arrived in Wisconsin, but the beautiful city of La Crosse will also stand out to me for some of the best food in AMERICA.
When people say, "Those boys are so lucky!" I'm quick to counter that I am the lucky one, to be entrusted with their care. Maybe that's my sign at the grocery store, a succinct description of a single gay man who adopted older biological siblings: "Lucky-dad parking."
It was the worst when I was home alone with the children. That superstar mom our social worker described in her reports was nowhere to be seen and I found myself wondering how to summon the strength to meet their basic needs. Dress, feed, kiss, play -- these felt like monumental tasks.
Of the 400,000 youth in the foster system nationally, 19,000 are in Los Angeles County. Our county has more foster kids than any other county and more than some states. What better place to create a new model than right here?
The documentary by Julia Ivanova, Family Portrait in Black and White features a Ukrainian foster mother, Olga, and her brood of 27 foster kids. I caught up with Ivanova about her touching film and she shared her views on the film's imperfect heroine.