My teenage daughter called me a Kill-Joy today. And she wasn’t even mad at me. She just sort of said it matter-of-fact with a slight look of pity which made the whole thing even worse.
“Kill-Joy?” I asked. “As in joy-killer? You mean like a downer?” My eyes about popped out of my head.
“Uh, yeah,” she responded. Unbelievable.
“I am not a downer. I am funny. You know what? I’ll get you references. They’ll vouch for me,” I insisted as I made a mental note of which friends I could count on to set the record straight.
“How much will you have to pay them?” she quipped.
“You are very funny,” I told her as I broke into a smile. She giggled.
“Just remember where you got your sense of humor,” I added as we both laughed.
I understood what she was saying though. We had been talking about a YouTube video I had posted to my personal Facebook page. It was a video of former foster child Vyctorya Sandoval who died at the age of two after being returned to the care of her biological parents. Her foster parents had wanted to adopt her. And it was heartbreaking. Devastating.
But how do you raise awareness of the brokenness of the foster care and legal systems if you don’t tell the stories? If children like Vyctorya live and die with no voice then shouldn’t we use ours on their behalf? How do we create her legacy of hope and change if we don’t channel the horror of this tragedy into system improvements? If we wait for these systems to fix themselves it won’t happen.
I’d like to ask you what a friend recently asked me. If you had tons of money, a magic wand and a fair amount of power, what would you do to fix this mess? What is the first thing you would change? I’m interested to know your answers.
I once did a radio show with Bill Cunningham at 700 WLW. He was crabbing about how outraged he was over the failures of these systems. I shut him down on the spot. Outrage is good, I told him. We should be outraged. But these children, these lives torn apart by abuse and neglect…our outrage doesn’t help them so we can’t get stuck there. We have to take the next steps forward and commit to doing better by these kids who have no voice. We have to give them one. All of us. And we start by getting educated about these issues then getting involved.
So please spend some time on my website and learn about foster kids and how you can help them. Although you might think my book is sad, it has been hailed as ‘hopeful’ and ‘a road map for making things better.’ I promise. I even have a couple of lines in there that have been known to make people laugh out loud.
The only joy-killer here is if we decide this problem is too big for us grown-ups to handle. It isn't too big. We can chip away at it together.
Send me your ideas. What would you do with tons of money and a magic wand? And a little bit of power...