Imagine being a child, not knowing where to call home. Who do you call mom and dad? Constantly battling in your head who is safe; who is not? Imagine being woken up in the middle of the night and told to pack your things in a black trash bag because you were no longer going to be living there. Imagine feeling the loss, the hurt, and the pain of feeling like you have no one in your corner, even those who gave you life. Imagine having no stability, and No familiar faces, other than yourself. Imagine how lonely and out of place you would feel. You don’t understand why. You wonder, “am i not lovable? Is it me? Why doesn't anyone care?”
The federal definition of foster care states that fostering a child means “24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the State agency has placement and care responsibility.” On any given day in the United States, there are approximately 440,000 children living in foster care. These children range in age from 0 to 21 and, on average, will remain in state care for an average of a year and a half. In many cases, sibling groups are separated, and children move from placement to placement and experience no sense of permanency while in the dependency system. They lack normalcy, love, and hope. But most of all these kids, lack the nature of “kids just being kids”.
Each day, roughly 12 children are removed from the home and placed in foster care in Denver, Colorado. Many of these children have to begin to address emotions and pain that most children don’t even have to consider. From the early trauma, to the feeling of lost hope, and loss of who they are and are meant to be, these kids endure more in their childhood and lives than any average person could bare.
Just look at the statistics: According to the department of health and human services, Each year; more than 400,000 children experience foster care in the United States. In 2017, 9 out of every 1,000 children in the United States were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect. 15% of children in foster care have languished there for three or more years. Of children who entered foster care in 2017, 49% were five years old or younger at the time they entered the system. 50% will never graduate from high school or obtain GED. Only 15% of foster children will attend college, and fewer than 3% will earn a college degree. 25% of foster children experience PTSD (comparable to the rate of U.S. war veterans), and tend to suffer high rates of debilitating depression and low self-esteem. And After “aging out” of the system, 25% of foster teens will experience homelessness at least once.
The statistics are staggering, and heart breaking. Who are the voices for these children? How do we help create an environment of safety and love for them?
Here's where the Fifty50 Foundation comes in. One founder of The Fifty50 Foundation can relate to the children previously mentioned, in astounding ways. This is her story:
“I was taken at two months of old. I was taken because my biological parents were drug addicts and lost their rights to me and my siblings. I was the youngest of 5 children, and the last to be adopted. Which meant years in the foster system. Starting at two months old, I began to endure countless sexual assaults, and countless traumatic experiences. There were several middle of the night pack ups and unimaginable hours of abuse. I was placed in over 25 foster homes while in foster care, and I never had a sense of security or understood what it felt like to feel loved. I questioned who I was, and why I was here. That was just the beginning of my emotional and physical trauma.
I then was adopted when I was eight years old. My family had 11 other children. I was still left a broken, and distant, little girl who trusted no one and depended solely on myself. I was a little girl who lost everything, and I had a much different past than an average little girl my age would have. I was ashamed, embarrassed. I built up emotional walls to protect myself from ever getting hurt again.
Although I have since discovered the love of a wonderful husband, my children, my parents, and a great creator. I have felt what these kids feel. I have felt their loss, their hurt, and their pain. Most importantly, because of the good people who were there for me, who were patient with me, the years of counseling, my behaviors were dramatically changed. I was a different little girl, who had parents tell her, nothing you can do will ever make us give you back, a promise I had heard a million times before. But was never kept. My parents kept their word. They didn’t give up, even when the going was unbearable at times. I have grown into someone who is not a statistic. I have a purpose and have amounted to somebody because of the people who took the time to break the cycle and teach me the life skills that I have to this day. They didn’t give up on me.”
There’s power in not giving up and I’m living proof. We need more families striving to show the success of fostering, the success of a breakthrough with a child, celebrating from the smallest victories to the biggest. And bringing back these children’s hope. Rather than reminding them of their hardships and suffering, allowing them to put non uplifting thoughts in their head. Instead, we build them up, pray for them, love them when they’re not at their best. Teaching, And Guiding them to the road of love and success. Showing them they are someone, and they are loved. No matter the circumstances. “We won’t ever give up on you” are the words these children’s hearts long to hear.
Being a child in the foster system didn’t define me. The system didn’t tell me who I was, or who I was meant to be. If I had listened to the statistics and what abusers told me, I would have been the pregnant girl at 16, homeless, who never would have graduated high school and I would have amounted to nothing. But I am a success story, and I am going to be the loudest voice for these children. So they can have success stories too. I have overcome the traumas, and lies life had told me and I want to show every little girl and boy that they are also over-comers. They need to know that they are loved, wanted, safe, and are going to be someone one day too. I believe it starts with us. Our involvement. Our hearts. And our love for these children.”
Her testimony is where the vision of the Fifty50 Foundation began. The Fifty50 Foundation will be a place where children in the foster care system can come, and feel a sense of safety and belonging. A place they are uplifted, and a place of familiarity. A place for them where they are being surrounded by people who love them, and want to see them succeed. The Fifty50 Foundation is designed to give these kids the tools to break the cycle, and not become another statistic. The Fifty50 Foundation does not see these kids as numbers in the system, but rather a number in the success stories.
We believe Jesus creates each child in this world with a purpose and that his plans are bigger than anyone could possibly understand. But so often the situations children experience at a young age allows the enemy to put lies in their minds about what they will amount to. It is our belief that these children can grow and amount to anything they desire, but these children need hope. They need relief. They need love. And they need a place they can go to be themselves, and to be the kids they are. A place of safety, and familiar faces, and a place they can turn to when they feel alone or their world gets hard.
The Fifty50 Foundation’s hope is to start a recreation center designed for foster children and foster families. It will be a place where they can begin to experience the love of a great creator because of the love they get from great human beings.
Our hope is that this Rec will offer several support groups and support services for families who need extra guidance and knowledge when the going gets tough. It’s a place of community, and a place of safety. Imagine the possibility of a child who gets to take a step away from their current situation and just enjoy being a kid. Being loved on by people who love Jesus, and love them.
The Fifty50 Foundation is focused on the foster and adopted kids of Denver, who need shown extra love and restored hope. It is our belief that this Rec Center will be just the beginning in restoring the hope and love for these children.