A Letter to Foster Youth
Helping former foster youth successfully transition into adulthood is the core focus of the Fostering Success Act. Richard L. Jackson, Chairman and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, entered Georgia’s foster care system at the age of 13. He emancipated at 18 years of age.
Here is a letter he wrote to young people aging out of Georgia’s foster care system. As a potential donor, we hope this gives you some insights and understanding into what these young people face.
Dear Aging Out Foster Child,
I am an adult now, but I used to be a foster child.
When you first went into Foster Care, I know that you were very confused, sad, angry, and afraid. Those are normal feelings. Before going further, let me tell you about my experience.
I did not have a father. He left me when I was nine months old. My mother was a nice person but was an alcoholic and could not keep a job. She was incapable and neglected me.
We lived in government housing all around Atlanta. (Most people refer to them as “slums.”) I went to 13 different schools. My family was very abusive to each other, both verbally and physically. It was a terrifying environment.
I was at home for days without my mom and had to provide for myself and go to school by myself. I went into a foster home at age 13 and spent time in three foster homes and an orphanage before I aged out of Foster Care when I was 18 years old.
When I first entered Foster Care, I had these questions – did you?
1. What did I do wrong?
2. Why can’t my mom and/or dad take care of me?
3. Who will take care of me?
4. What will my future be?
5. Will I ever be able to go back to my family?
6. Will anyone ever love me and care about me?
I understand your pain and your uncertainty about your situation and future. Know that those feelings are normal and understandable. Always remember:I understand your pain and your uncertainty about your situation and future. Know that those feelings are normal and understandable.
THIS IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!!!
You did not choose your circumstances and should not have to go through what you are experiencing now. However, I am here to tell you that you can and will get through it, and things will get better. Our earthly parents may be dysfunctional, flawed, and sometimes can’t take care of us. I understood this at an early age and decided to adopt God as my father because His love is unending and unconditional. He is always there to lift you up during your deepest sorrows.
YOU ARE SOMEBODY! YOU ARE IMPORTANT. GOD LOVES YOU!
Regardless of your circumstances, you can do something about it and improve your life and future. DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENTLY! You CAN break the cycle and make better choices than your family did. You CAN be successful in life. It is not too late, and you are not destined to fail – IF you truly want to make something of yourself.
Adopt this mantra:
IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME!
When you make this commitment to yourself, then doors can open for you at every level. Choose to be around good people that have good values and are successful in life. Ask them to help you. Many people in life will help you without strings attached if you tell them that you will make the effort to help yourself.
Don’t let people try to convince you that you are a victim and the world is out to put you down. If you will commit to the choices you make – you can be successful in life and identify those opportunities that will allow you to “Rise UP!” No matter what life has dealt you as a child, you can make it.
People told me I would never make it. Parents of other children did not want me to associate with their kids or to date their daughters. Now, I understand that they just didn’t know me. Even when people told me I could not be successful, I chose not to be a “Professional Victim” – blaming others for my circumstances or failures. By taking ownership of who you are, and the choices you make, you are no longer a victim. You are now in CONTROL of your life. I know that this is important, because most of your childhood, you have had no control over your circumstances.
Another thing to remember – you are endowed with seeds of greatness and have been engineered for success by God. The words of encouragement you tell yourself MUST replace the negative words of others. Here are some examples:
- If you dream it, you can achieve it.
- If you learn from your failure and commit to changing your course, then it is not a failure.
- Failure is an event, not a person.
- Do not associate with negative people that put you down. You need to associate with positive people that believe in you and will help you. Many people will be there for you if you try hard yourself.
- It is not how you fall down that is important but how you pick yourself up.
In summary, I survived foster care and rose to success, and so can you.
When you determine your definition of success – all you need to do is believe and commit to doing whatever is necessary, make good decisions, and stay focused on your vision. You will succeed.
Here is my last and most important advice,
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP!
If you will take ownership of your life and commit to do what it takes, then I look forward to seeing you at the top!
Rick JacksonChairman and CEO,
Jackson HealthcareFoster Care Alumni 1972
Beginning January 1, 2023, Georgia tax filers can apply to receive 100 percent tax credit for donations made to qualified foster support organizations.