Ending the stigma of youth homelessness | Columns – Frederick News Post

When I remarried two years ago, three new people came into my life my wife (Susan) and my two stepdaughters. Actually, I consider them my daughters, because Im crazy about them and I like the way it sounds to have four instead of two.

They complement my existing family of two daughters in a nice way each is different and unique. Id be lax if I didnt mention the two (now three) dogs and five (now six) cats that were packaged into this marriage deal. Therefore, I get no rest. Each of my new daughters has her challenges, but one has had a very challenging past.

My youngest new daughter is named Kate. I am not her biological father and my wife is not her biological mother. Born 15 years ago in the District of Columbia to a woman who gave her up for adoption (along with numerous other her children over the years), she spent a large part of her first six years on this planet being shuffled from one foster home to another. All of her possessions remained and traveled with her, not in a suitcase, but in the form of an actual plastic trash bag. Her kid-sitter was a television. She had great difficulty falling asleep, so her foster parents allowed her to stay up into the wee hours of the morning, watching all genres of programs, including horror films and others that a 6 year old should not view. She spoke a dialect of English that was hardly understandable. Lost in the system, with seemingly little interest for adoption by anyone, she was heading toward a very sad and dangerous life.

My wife divorced about 10 years ago, escaping from a verbally abusive husband. Involvement in a local childrens home piqued her interest in adopting a young child. After some time, many visits, unending paperwork, drama and gamesmanship on the part of others involved, she adopted a young girl of 6. (Note: it should not have been that difficult to save a child, but it was, I am told.)

Nothing could have better described young Kate than failure to thrive. She could not read, spoke very poorly, had never consumed what wed call proper food and had to deal with health issues given to her by her mother. She had been bounced around foster homes to such a degree that she lived in constant worry her new home was only temporary.

I can only imagine how overwhelming it must have felt, going from a foster home with poor nutrition, no security or love to the opposite a real home, with love and cats and dogs and a new older sister and a mom who would never abandon her. Susan transitioned her to eating healthy food, enrolled her in a good elementary school (well, it had to be good, as she was the principal) where Kate learned to read and write.

Kate is now a freshman in high school. She reads and writes well and gets A grades. She is popular, has numerous friends, and competes in hip-hop dancing outside of school. Her handwriting is impeccable it resembles something a person would print out from a computer document. She helps around the house and seems just like a normal teenager down to how much we see her immersed in her phone and music. She brings along a pleasant smile for those around her to brighten our days. She deals with challenges these days even now one cannot entirely leave the effects of the past behind.

She will never know her biological father he was no more than a sperm donor. I am ecstatic that she considers me as her dad. I must admit that being the father of a teenager at my young age of 61 is quite tiring. I have been introduced to the current slang, as well as new music some of which I can enjoy, which is much different than what my father said about the rock and roll I listened to as a teenager (Its garbage music.)

Addendum: Had my wife not come along to save Kate, it is quite likely she would have been in the system through her high school years, probably unable to graduate, and eventually out on the street. There is an organization in Frederick that assists school-age children and their families who are experiencing homelessness, whether temporary or permanent. It is called Student Homelessness Initiative Partnership (SHIP), and you can find them on Facebook. SHIP is the major sponsor of the Maryland Endurance Challenge again this year. During this event, bicyclists from here and all over the country compete in three, six, and 12-hour races to raise money. Please consider making a donation to a racer or, even better, competing yourself. You need not be wealthy, fast (or young) to raise some money. Find them at https://mdendurancechallenge.com.

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Ending the stigma of youth homelessness | Columns - Frederick News Post

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