This evening I spent a few hours downtown at the Juvenile Justice Center as part of my volunteer work as a court appointed special advocate (CASA) for children in the foster care system.
My favorite aspect of the particular courtroom I was in, is the unwritten rule, "Don't sit in the front row as that is where the prisoners sit!"
That's some GOLDEN advice right there, folks! 'Cause there's just nothing like sitting next to someone for a good half hour before you realize they are actually CHAINED to the bench, which may or may not have happened to me when I was a rookie volunteer 12 years ago!
But, in all seriousness, I want to share a true story a judge shared with my group tonight. He was talking about a policy that the state of Texas has had for a few years now where they pay the college tuition for former foster children to be able to attend a state university and even graduate school if they complete it within a certain number of years.
Obviously this is a great and much-needed thing, but it is not enough.
This judge told us about a young woman he knew of who was in foster care for many years, aged out at age 18 and was one of the rare successful ones who actually used the state money to pay for her college and even her graduate degree, but when the dorm closed for Christmas she had nowhere to go and often ended up sleeping in her car.
Y'all, it makes my heart hurt just thinking about that college student with NO FAMILY, nowhere to go for the holidays!
My state is working on some things to do better by these kids, because really WE MUST DO BETTER, turning kids out on the streets from foster care when they turn 18 just is not working. Many of those kids go on to be homeless, caught up in prostitution, in jail, or have children of their own in CPS custody within just a few years!
My new role with CASA that I'm gearing up for will be with older kids. It's going to be a stretch for me as I'm used to little ones, little ones I know, but if there's a teenager out there with NO ONE that cares about them, then I'm going to be that person even if its hard for me. Because they are worth it. I don't even know them yet, but I know God created them in his very image and loves them just as much as He loves me!