+
upworthy
Family

9 things to know about kids in foster care. Plus an unforgettable view into their lives.

Foster care is a nightmare for some kids and their foster parents. For others, it's a blessing.

foster care, foster care facts, zoe removed

A clip from "ReMoved Part Two"



Zoe's story, "Removed," has been seen by millions of people.

It was previously shared by my amazing Upworthy colleague Laura Willard. We got just a tiny taste of what it was like for kids in foster care, right after being removed. Specifically, a little girl named Zoe and her little brother Benaiah.

My wife and I, foster parents for the past year, even shared the original with our adoption worker, who passed it along to the entire agency and, then, it took off like wildfire among those people as well.

This is part 2 of that story, and it hits hard.

(Yes, the video's on the long side at about 20 minutes. But it's worth the watch to the end.)

She describes her life as a cycle, interrupted by a tornado. She's a foster child. I don't think I need to say any more.


So ... let's accompany that with 9 uncomfortable — but enlightening — facts below. There are only nine bolded, but within those headers, there are several more facts.

1. There are an estimated 400,000 kids in foster care right now.

Some are awaiting adoption. Some will go back to their parents. Others will age out or, sometimes, run away.

2. Foster kids can suffer from PTSD at almost two times the rate of returning veterans.

And PTSD can mimic a lot of other mental illnesses, and it can manifest as nightmares, flashbacks, fight-or-flee responses, anger outbursts, and hyper-vigilance (being on "red alert" at all times), among other symptoms.

Image via Nathaniel Matanick.


3. The average age of a foster child is 9 years old.

They're just on that edge of childhood, and chances are, it's been a pretty messed up childhood at that. Trauma does that.

4. About half of all foster kids are in non-relative foster homes.

8% are in institutions, 6% are in group homes, and only 4% are in pre-adoptive homes. Read that again — only 4% are in pre-adoptive homes.

5. Some of foster children experience multiple placements. In some cases, eight or more.

That's eight homes that they move into — and out of. And just consider ... that means they lose not just adults and other kids with whom they are establishing a bond, but friends, schoolmates, pets.

Clip via Nathaniel Matanick


6. The average foster child remains in the system for almost two years before being reunited with their biological parents, adopted, aging out, or other outcomes.

8% of them remain in foster care for over five years. Of the 238,000 foster kids who left the system in 2013, about half were reunited with parents or primary caregivers, 21% were adopted, 15% went to live with a relative or other guardian, and 10% were emancipated (aged out).

7. In 2013, more than 23,000 young people aged out of foster care with no permanent family to end up with.

And if you add that up, year after year, hundreds of thousands of foster youth will have aged out of the system. What does that look like? "You're 18. You've got no place to live and no family. Good luck — buh-bye now!" One-quarter of former foster kids experience homelessness within four years of exiting the system.

8. Foster "alumni" (those who have been in foster homes and either adopted, returned to parents, or aged out) are likely to suffer serious mental health consequences.

They are four-five times more likely to be hospitalized for attempting suicide and five-eight times more likely to be hospitalized for serious psychiatric disorders in their teens.

Based on that set of statistics alone, it's in the public's interest (ignoring, for a second, the interests of those kids) to help them through their lot in life and spend resources making it all work much better for everybody before it gets to that point. Right?

So there's a lot to be angry about in this whole messed up situation. But this next thing? My blood boils.

What's one of the biggest risk factors in families whose children are placed in foster care?

Your guess?

Cruelty?

Drugs?

Sexual abuse?

Neglect?

The answer is ...

9. Poverty

Together with homelessness and unemployment, it's a main contributing factor. It happens all the time. The fact that it's far easier for a parent to be accused and investigated for neglect or abuse because of simple things like lack of access to a vehicle, or a working refrigerator, or the ability to get a kid to a doctor's appointment — that has a lot to do with this. Tie that to the link between drug abuse and poverty and between poverty and child abuse ... well, you can see where this is going.

And in a country where one-third of children are living in poverty (hint: the good ol' U.S. of A.), imagine how that affects the number of kids being removed and placed into foster care.

I'll end this with a bit of hope through my story.

My kids went through something a lot like the kids in the clip above before they came to live with us. We've been through the ringer in ways that we're going to have to talk about one day because it's not just that the kids have been challenging — they have — it's that the system itself has been more challenging.

The entire system — from agencies to government entities to social workers to even the schools — seems like it's designed to fail these kids and the families who are attempting to help. It's almost designed not to work. There, I said it.

But that doesn't mean we won't fight to make it better for everybody. We most definitely will.

Image from a photo by my wife, Robin.

As for us, we're just a few weeks away from becoming the legal parents to these kids, and we're extremely happy to be right here, making it happen. And they seem quite happy to be our kids. Along the way, we fell in love with them, and we can't imagine life without them.

But to be totally honest ... if we'd have known how hard it was going to be when we started this journey, and if we could somehow turn back the clock and NOT do it ... well, would we have actually gone forward with the process?

I take that back. I won't be totally honest here. I will simply let you decide.

Here are some places to help, if you're so inclined.

        • AdoptUsKids.org is a place to start if you're considering fostering or adopting.
        • My Stuff Bags is a really cool and inexpensive way to help foster kids by gifting them actual luggage, duffel bags, and more, so that they don't travel from home to home with garbage bags for their belongings — or nothing at all.
        • CASA for Children offers legal help and advocates for foster kids through a network of volunteers.

        This story was written by Brandon Weber and originally appeared on 07.17.15

        Sponsored

        3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

        O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

        A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

        Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

        By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

        Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

        O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


        “We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

        With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

        Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

        O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

        Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

        Prep time: 2 minutes

        Cook time: 20 minutes

        Total time: 22 minutes

        Ingredients:

        1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

        1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

        O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

        O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

        O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

        1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

        Instructions:

        1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

        2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

        3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

        4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

        tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

        O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

        Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

        Prep time: 15 minutes

        Cook time: 7 hours

        Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

        Servings: 4

        Ingredients:

        1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

        1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

        3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

        1 tsp onion powder

        I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

        2 cups water

        1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

        1 clove garlic ($.50)

        1 tsp salt

        1/4 tsp pepper

        2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

        Instructions:

        1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

        2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

        3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

        4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

        5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

        potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


        O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

        This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

        Prep time: 2 minutes

        Cook time: 25 minutes

        Total time: 27 minutes

        Servings: 4

        Ingredients:

        1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

        1 tbsp. olive oil

        2 tsp dried basil

        1 tsp garlic powder

        1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

        1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

        1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

        2 1/4 cups water

        2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

        1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

        Instructions:

        1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

        2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

        3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

        4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

        5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

        o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

        There was a time when every other girl was named Ashley. That time has ended.

        As we know, baby name trends are constantly changing. One generation’s Barbara is another generation’s Bethany. But it doesn’t make it any less odd when you suddenly realize that your very own name has suddenly made it into the “old and unhip” pile. And for many of us 80s babies…that time is now.

        In a now-viral TikTok post, baby name consultant Colleen Slagen went through the top 100 girl names from 1986 to find which ones “did not age well” and were no longer ranked top 1,000 today. Such a descent from popularity would mark them as what she calls “timestamp names.”

        Spoiler alert: what might be even more surprising than the names now considered old school are the names that are still going strong.


        The first name that Slagen says is “officially out” is Heather. That’s right, not even cult movie fame could help it keep its ranking.

        via GIPHY

        Other extinct names include Erica, Courtney, Lindsay, Tara, Crystal, Shannon, Brandy and Dana. Tiffany, Brittany and Casey are also heading very much in that direction.

        “My name is Brandy. The Gen Z hostess at Olive Garden told me that she’d never heard my name before and it was so unique,” one viewer wrote.

        However, Andrea ranks “surprisingly high,” and Jessica, Ashley and Stephanie have survived…so far.

        Gobsmacked, one person asked “How is Stephanie still in there? I don’t think I’ve met a Stephanie younger than myself at 34.”

        But the biggest holdout still belongs to Jennifer. “She was a top 100 name all the way up until 2008. Round of applause for Jennifer,” Slagen says in the clip.

        @namingbebe Sorry Lindsay, Heather, and Courtney. #babynames #nametok #nameconsultant #girlnames #80skid #1986 #nametrend ♬ original sound - Colleen

        If your name has found its way into relic of a bygone era status, fret not. Slagen, whose name also ranks out of the top 1000, assures it just means “we are creatures of the 80's.”

        Of course, while we still have baby names that become incredibly common for extended periods of time (looking at you, little Liam and Olivia), the real contemporary trend is going for uniqueness. As an article in The Atlantic notes, for most of American history families tended to name their children after a previous family member, with the goal of blending in, rather than standing out. But now, things have changed.

        Laura Wattenberg, the founder of Namerology, told the outlet that “Parents are thinking about naming kids more like how companies think about naming products, which is a kind of competitive marketplace where you need to be able to get attention to succeed.”

        But again, even with a keen eye on individualism, patterns pop up. “The same thing we see in fashion trend cycles, we see in names,” Jessie Paquette, another professional baby namer, told Vox. “We’re seeing Eleanor, Maude, Edith—cool-girl grandma names.”

        So who knows…give it time (or maybe just a pop song) and one of these 80s names could make a comeback.

        Rodney Smith Jr. mowing a lawn in West Covina, California

        Rodney Smith Jr., of Huntsville, Alabama, was recently profiled by KMBC for his generous donation to two 11-year-olds who fulfilled his 50 Yard Challenge in Gadsden, Alabama. Ja’Torrian Taylor and Tevin Rice, founders of TJ & JT Mowing Service, completed Smith’s challenge to mow 50 yards for the elderly, veterans, and people unable to care for their lawns for free.

        "I’m heading down to Gadsden right now. These are good, hard-working kids that deserve some gratitude," Smith, known as "The Lawnmower Man," told KMBC. Smith had been told that Taylor and Rice were sharing an old lawnmower that a neighbor had donated to them.

        When he arrived, he gave both teens a mower, a blower and a trimmer for their hard work, hoping they’ll use their new equipment to expand their business. "Giving these boys lawn equipment is teaching them discipline," Smith said. "If they tell someone they are going to mow a lawn, they need to mow the lawn."

        "Remember, this is not the end; it’s just the beginning," Smith added. "This could be the beginning of a successful lawn service."

        Smith’s commitment to taking care of people’s lawns started in 2015, and the following year he went viral for helping a 93-year-old woman who could no longer mow hers. The photo of Smith and the woman received over 1 million likes.

        Five years ago, Upworthy profiled Smith for setting a bold goal of mowing lawns for free in all 50 states. His goal was to promote his initiative that "provides free lawn care to our elders, those who are disabled, single mothers, and our veterans, who do not have the time, resources, and/or money to manicure their yards."

        As part of this goal, he created the 50 Yard Challenge, which has been a smashing success.

        As of May 2023, 4,588 pre-teens and teens are participating in this challenge across the United States. If everyone completes the challenge, that will bring the total number of lawns mowed for free by Smith’s Raising Men & Women Lawn Care Service to 229,400.

        Kids and teens can take part in the challenge by sending them a photo holding up a sign that says, “I accept the 50 Yard Challenge,” and in return, they’ll receive a white Raising Men/Women shirt along with shades and ear protection to get started. For every 10 lawns cut, they will get a new color shirt.

        • 10 lawns earn an orange shirt

        • 20 lawns earn a green shirt

        • 30 lawns earn a blue shirt

        • 40 lawns earn a red shirt

        • 50 lawns earn a black shirt

        After completing the challenge, the child or teen will receive a mower, a blower, and a trimmer, just like Ja’Torrian Taylor and Tevin Rice from Alabama.

        Smith’s story is an incredible example of how one good deed from a kind-hearted person can lead to an outpouring of kindness across the country. It also teaches young people the values of giving back and self-discipline as well as the entrepreneurial spirit.

        Learn more about Smith’s nonprofit and donate at Weareraisingmen.com.


        This article originally appeared on 6.23.23

        Mel Robinson making a TED Talk.

        Towards the end of The Beatles’ illustrious but brief career, Paul McCartney wrote “Let it Be,” a song about finding peace by letting events take their natural course. It was a sentiment that seemed to mirror the feeling of resignation the band had with its imminent demise.

        The bittersweet song has had an appeal that has lasted generations and that may be because it reflects an essential psychological concept: the locus of control.

        “It’s about understanding where our influence ends and accepting that some things are beyond our control,” Jennifer Chappell Marsh, a marriage and family therapist, told The Huffington Post. “We can’t control others, so instead, we should focus on our own actions and responses.”


        This idea of giving up control, or the illusion of it, when it does us no good, was perfectly distilled into 2 words that everyone can understand as the “Let Them” theory. Podcast host, author, motivational speaker and former lawyer Mel Robbins explained this theory perfectly in a vial Instagram video.

        “I just heard about this thing called the ‘Let Them Theory,’ I freaking love this,” Robbins starts the video.

        “If your friends are not inviting you out to brunch this weekend, let them. If the person that you're really attracted to is not interested in a commitment, let them. If your kids do not want to get up and go to that thing with you this week, let them.” Robbins says in the clip. “So much time and energy is wasted on forcing other people to match our expectations.”

        “If they’re not showing up how you want them to show up, do not try to force them to change; let them be themselves because they are revealing who they are to you. Just let them – and then you get to choose what you do next,” she continued.

        The phrase is a great one to keep in your mental health tool kit because it’s a reminder that, for the most part, we can’t control other people. And if we can, is it worth wasting the emotional energy? Especially when we can allow people to behave as they wish and then we can react to them however we choose.

        Stop wasting energy on trying to get other people to meet YOUR expectations. Instead, try using the “Let Them Theory.” 

        @melrobbins

        Stop wasting energy on trying to get other people to meet YOUR expectations. Instead, try using the “Let Them Theory.” 💥 Listen now on the #melrobbinspodcast!! “The “Let Them Theory”: A Life Changing Mindset Hack That 15 Million People Can’t Stop Talking About” 🔗 in bio #melrobbins #letthemtheory #letgo #lettinggo #podcast #podcastepisode

        How you respond to their behavior can significantly impact how they treat you in the future.

        It’s also incredibly freeing to relieve yourself of the responsibility of changing people or feeling responsible for their actions. As the old Polish proverb goes, “Not my circus, not my monkeys.”

        “Yes! It’s much like a concept propelled by the book ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k.’ Save your energy and set your boundaries accordingly. It’s realizing that we only have “control” over ourselves and it’s so freeing,” 60DaysToLive2012 wrote.

        “Let It Be” brought Paul McCartney solace as he dealt with losing his band in a very public breakup. The same state of mind can help all of us, whether it’s dealing with parents living in the past, friends who change and you don’t feel like you know them anymore, or someone who cuts you off in traffic because they’re in a huge rush to go who knows where.

        The moment someone gets on your nerves and you feel a jolt of anxiety run up your back, take a big breath and say, “Let them.”


        This article originally appeared on 3.4.24

        www.youtube.com

        British high schoolers try southern food for the first time

        Southern food is beloved by many, and those of us raised on it just consider it dinner, not a special cuisine. But since Southern food is pretty geographical, there are plenty of Americans who haven't had the opportunity to try authentic Southern food. There are a few soul food restaurants that get it right sprinkled across the country, but all are not created equal.

        Since Southern cooking isn't available throughout all of America, it shouldn't be a surprise that it's not a staple across the pond. Josh Carrott, author of "Once Upon A Time in Carrottland," runs the YouTube channel Jolly, where he has people try new foods. He decided to invite a group of British schoolboys to try a few Southern staples. The boys are in year 9 in England, which means they're between the ages of 13 and 14.

        Since Carrott isn't Southern, or even American for that matter, I can't say how the food was prepared. What I can say is that my very Southern grandmother would give the sausage gravy preparation the side eye, but other than that, it looked as authentic as possible.


        The boys were served biscuits that were perfectly golden, and there was immediate confusion. Apparently biscuits are flat and hard in England, so the boys were sure they were being served scones. It only took one bite for them to come around to the idea of the buttery fluffy delight that is the Southern biscuit. But the taste test for the biscuits wasn't over—Carrott mixed up some white sausage gravy and smothered the delicious bread.

        None of the boys were eager to try a meal that many Southern households eat regularly.

        "Let's call it interesting for now. I'm not going to make a judgment," one boy says.

        "It looks like a chopped-up ferret," another lamented.

        To be fair, if you've never seen biscuits and gravy, it doesn't look instantly appealing, but once you try it, the dish suddenly looks amazing every time you encounter it moving forward. Maybe it isn't everyone's favorite thing, but being able to drive through a Whataburger and grab it to go brings me childlike joy.

        After trying everything offered, all of the boys agreed that the Southern food was delicious, including the sweet tea. Several of them said they preferred it over their British hot tea—no one tell their parents. It feels like it would be as shocking as finding a Southerner who prefers unsweet tea. You can watch the entire video below.

        This article originally appeared on 6.22.23

        Sergio Reis/Youtube

        Odds are you’ve heard Wally de Backer, aka Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

        It’s the Australian musician’s biggest commercial hit, selling more than 20 million copies since its release in 2011, making it one of the best-selling digital singles of all time. Not to mention it inspired several amazing covers, which you might have also stumbled upon.

        The music video, in its poignant simplicity, is every bit as iconic.

        Gotye stands naked facing the camera, as featured singer Kimbra faces him. As they sing, they are slowly “painted” into and out of the background of geometric shapes using stop motion animation. There’s a very Wes Anderson feel to it that adds so much to the story told in the song, making it all the more memorable.

        All this to say…it would be a challenge to recreate the magic that’s so inherent in the original. And yet, one dance company has clearly understood the assignment.


        All this to say…it would be a challenge to recreate the magic that’s so inherent in the original. And yet, one dance company has clearly understood the assignment.

        Netherland based dance troupe CDK recently went viral for their highly stylized movement performance to the well known art pop ballad.

        As thousands of viewers were quick to note, it’s not just the incredible dance moves that make this performance so captivating. It’s a killer combination of choreography, camerawork and costumes that make the piece impossible to turn away from.

        “This is pure art,” one person wrote. While another added, “I think I’m going to watch it everyday for the rest of my life.”

        Take a look for yourself:

        CDK - Somebody That I Used To Know by Gotye

        This group is clearly at the top of their game, by how easy they make it all look (like, I've already convinced myself that I can pull off those moves). But what’s more evident is that they enjoy what they’re doing to the nth degree.

        To find even more of CDK's performances, follow them on Instagram.

        Fun fact #1: Gotye allows small independent projects, like student films—and probably this dance piece—to use his music free of charge. "If someone wants to use it commercially I look at what the budget is and the creativity of the project," he said, according to News.com.

        Fun fact #2: CDK isn't the only group to have recently breathed new life into the song. A few weeks ago, an electronic remix of the song titled "Somebody (2024)," created by electronic music producers Chris Lake, Fisher, and Sante Sansone, debuted. Much like it's predecessor, "Somebody (2024) is topping the charts.


        This article originally appeared on 3.6.24