A few months ago, I visited two youth correctional facilities to deliver awards to teams of youth who had won grants through Oregon Youth in Action, a project of the American Leadership Forum. Two teams of youth had put together project proposals to address childhood obesity. One project intended to develop an organic garden at a girls' correctional facility so that healthier food could be produced and consumed onsite. The other planned to install fitness equipment and offer courses for all residents of a boys' facility.
While addressing the kids during the introduction, the Director of the Oregon Youth Authority said, "The rest of your lives don't have to be set by one bad decision in your past." Her comment resonated with me because I myself had been a rebellious youth from a broken family. I easily could have become a statistic. Fortunately, at several critical times, individuals stepped up and offered support and guidance that helped me create a life different from anything I had ever seen.
Kids who grow up with poverty, crime, violence and addiction often repeat those patterns in their adult lives. However, at times a caring individual can, with relatively little effort, break the cycle and show a young person a different, more productive way to live.
On any given day in Oregon, there are about 8,700 children and youth in foster care -- and every foster child has a unique story. "Children are in foster care because they can't be safe at home. Because of the trauma they have experienced in their lives, these children need love, stability, and hope," said Erinn Kelley-Siel, Director of Oregon's Department of Human Services. "These children have experienced unimaginable difficulties. But to truly raise these children up, and reduce the need for foster care in the first place, we need your help."
How You Can Help
Visit Raise Me Up to find out about becoming a foster parent or providing respite care for other foster parents. In addition, you'll find links to hundreds of opportunities to help local kids in your own community.
First Lady's Initiatives home page