By Britt Moreno
DENVER (CBS4) - A soft spoken 14 year old girl wearing pig tails and soccer cleats taught me about foster care. Her name is Brittany. She did not have a family, but she did have hope.
In 2012 Brittany was one of the first children I met as the Wednesday's Child reporter. I watched her zip around the soccer field where we shot our story trying her best to master the soccer drills. She was self-aware and perceptive. She seemed to study me and base her reactions off mine. I kicked the ball, missed the mark by a mile and got her to laugh at my flub. That's when we clicked.
Brittany was self-assured in what she needed. She wanted to be someone's daughter. She had an idea of what a family's love would be like. She looked me in the eye and told me what she was looking forward to the most in a family; "I just want someone to be there when I come home from school and say hi, how's your day" she said.
In that moment, the lightbulb went off. Foster care kids don't have a mom who asks how school was. They don't have a dad help them with homework. No one tucks them in at night. They don't ever sit around the family dinner table and break bread. Birthdays come and go and no one celebrates. There's no one in the stands cheering for them during a school sports game. Foster care kids don't get to partake in the routine family traditions like decorating the Christmas tree, watching a movie on a Friday night, or even having someone hug and kiss them good-bye before school in the morning.
Brittany just wanted to make a childhood memory like the ones I often smile about when reflecting on my own. After I said goodbye to her that day I got in the station car with the photographer and cried. I've done this many times after meeting our Wednesdays children. They leave the interview and go home to no one. I called my mom and dad after I met Brittany to tell them about this troubling opportunity my boss had let me take on and realized how lucky I was to just be able to lean on them.
I interviewed Brittany again a couple years later. She was 16. The pigtails were gone and replaced by eye liner and lip gloss. Once again she enlightened me. She admitted she had run away from a couple of her foster families. She got involved with "bad people". She seemed different to me. She was still thoughtful in how she spoke, but life had made her wiser and a little more guarded. This time she looked me square in the eye and said "families are afraid to adopt older kids".
I regularly check in with contacts at the Adoption Exchange and sometimes they update me with good news. Some Wednesday's children are matched with the right families and adopted. It's a wonderful feeling. Unfortunately, that has not happened with Brittany. She will be 18 in October and even though recruiters have tried to get her to meet with me again for another interview, she has refused. Those closest to her predict she will leave the foster care system on her birthday. She, like many other teens, will just fall off that unkind precipice and "age out". I worry she has lost that hope.
I'm thinking of Brittany as we work on this series "Aging Out". It's sad to think this sweet, intelligent girl full of potential could be alone and then forced to be an adult. Let's be real, I'm still trying to figure this out in my 30's and thank God I have a mom and dad! Brittany taught me more than the grim reality of foster care. She schooled me on human compassion. We have to consider what happens to these forgotten kids and we have to do something to help.
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