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Family

Dad writes heartbreaking message after the death of his son

"Hug your kids. Don’t work too late. "

Dad writes heartbreaking message after the death of his son
via LinkedIn

A dad from Portland, Oregon, has taken to LinkedIn to write an emotional plea to parents after he learned that his son had died during a conference call at work. J.R. Storment, of Portland, Oregon, encouraged parents to spend less time at work and more time with their kids after his son's death.


In an open letter on LinkedIn, which has so far garnered over 26,000 likes and 2,700 comments, Storment explains that his son, Wiley, passed away during his sleep as a result of complications from his mild epilepsy. He then goes on to blast himself for not spending enough time with his son, and encourages other parents to take more time off work.

Widowed father with his family

J.R. Storment and his family

via Facebook

Storment starts by explaining that the day his son passed away started like any other:

"Eight years ago, during the same month, I had twin boys and co-founded Cloudability. About three months ago Cloudability was acquired. About three weeks ago we lost one of our boys."

"When I got the call I was sitting in a conference room with 12 people at our Portland office talking about PTO policies. Minutes earlier, I had admitted to the group that in the last 8 years I'd not taken more than a contiguous week off."

That's when Storment received a call from his distraught wife.

"My wife and I have an agreement that when one of us calls, the other answers. So when the phone rang I stood up and walked to the conference room door immediately."

"I was still walking through the door when I answered with 'Hey, what's up?'"

"Her reply was icy and immediate: 'J.R., Wiley is dead.'"

"'What?' I responded incredulously."

"'Wiley has died.' she reiterated."

"'What?! No.' I yelled out, 'No!'"

"'I'm so sorry, I have to call 911.'"

Storment goes on to explain the chaos that happened next.

"That was the entire conversation. The next thing I know I'm sprinting out the front door of the office with my car keys in hand, running ferociously across the street and muttering 'oh F**k. oh F**k. oh F**k.' Half way down the block I realize I don't have the opener to my parking garage. Running back into the lobby, I all but shout "Someone drive me! Somebody drive me!" Thankfully, a helpful colleague did."

Storment made it home, but not yet knowing the cause of death, police were treating the house as a possible crime scene. The heartbroken father was unable to see his son for two and a half hours.

"When the medical examiner finally finished his work, we were allowed in the room. An eerie calm came over me. I laid down next to him in the bed that he loved, held his hand and kept repeating, 'What happened, buddy? What happened?'"

"We stayed next to him for maybe 30 minutes and stroked his hair before they returned with a gurney to take him away. I walked him out, holding his hand and his forehead through the body bag as he was wheeled down our driveway. Then all the cars drove away. The last one to leave was the black minivan with Wiley in it."

Storment goes on to explain his son's dreams and aspirations, and the difficulty he had signing his son's death certificate.

"Wiley was obsessed with starting a business. One day it was a smoothie stand, the next it would be a gallery, then a VR headset company, then a 'coder', then a spaceship building company. In each of these scenarios he was the boss. His brother (and sometimes us) were invited to work for—not with— him and were each assigned jobs. In the gallery scenario, Wiley informed Oliver that he would be manning the cash register."

"Around 5 years old, Wiley decided he was going to get married as an adult. By 6 he had identified the girl, holding her hand at recess on the first day of kindergarten. Over the next two years as we moved from Portland to London to Hawaii, he kept in touch with her by handwritten letter. Not long before we moved back to Portland, the two agreed (by letter) to marry. She beat him to the punch and asked him. He accepted. Happily, he got to see her twice after we moved back to Portland in June."

"One of the countless difficult moments of this month was signing his death certificate. Seeing his name written on the top of it was hard. However, two fields further down the form crushed me. The first said: 'Occupation: Never worked' and the next: 'Marital Status: Never married.' He wanted so badly to do both of those things. I feel both fortunate and guilty to have had success in each."

Storment then criticises himself for spending too much time at work. And while it sounds that Wiley got to live an amazing life, Storment only wishes he could have done more with him.

"Over the last three weeks I have come up with an endless stream of things I regret. They tend to fall into two categories: things I wish I had done differently and things I'm sad not to see him do. My wife is constantly reminding me of all the things he did do: Wiley went to 10 countries, drove a car on a farm road in Hawaii, hiked in Greece, snorkeled in Fiji, wore a suit to a fantastic British prep school every day for two years, got rescued from a shark on a jet ski, kissed multiple girls, got good enough at chess to beat me twice in a row, wrote short stories and drew comics obsessively."

Storment hadn't checked on the boys the morning of the tragedy because he had to get up early for meetings, a decision he seems to regret.

"Around 5:40am, the next morning I woke up for a series of back to back meetings. I did a Peloton ride, took an analyst call from my home office, one with a colleague on the drive to work, then the rest at the office. None seem that important now. I left that morning without saying goodbye or checking on the boys."

Via Facebook

Storment has a simple message for parents:

"Many have asked what they can do to help. Hug your kids. Don't work too late. A lot of the things you are likely spending your time on you'll regret once you no longer have the time. I'm guessing you have 1:1 meetings on the books with a lot of people you work with. Do you have them regularly scheduled with your kids? If there's any lesson to take away from this, it's to remind others (and myself) not to miss out on the things that matter."

"The big question is how to return to work in a way that won't leave me again with the regrets I have now. To be honest, I've considered not going back. But I believe in the words of Kahlil Gibran who said, 'Work is love made visible.' To me, that line is a testament to how much we gain, grow and offer through the work we do. But that work needs to have a balance that I have rarely lived. It's a balance that lets us offer our gifts to the world but not at the cost of self and family."

"While I sat writing this post, my living son, Oliver, came in to ask for screen time. Instead of saying the usual 'no', I stopped writing and asked if I could play with him. He was happily surprised by my answer and we connected in a way I would have formerly missed out on. Small things matter. One silver lining from this tragedy is the improving relationship I have with him."

"Our family has gone from having two units of two (the parents and the twins) to now being a triangle of three. That's a big adjustment for a family that has always been four. Oliver's brilliant reply when we discussed the shape of our new family: 'But Papa, the triangle is the strongest shape.' By some sad and beautiful irony, Oliver has met three sets of 8-year-old twins in our new neighborhood since Wiley passed."

"I've learned to stop waiting to do the things the kids ask for. When we sold the business I gave each of the boys a $100 dollar bill. They decided to pool their money to buy a tent for camping. But we didn't make it happen before Wiley died. Another regret. So, after the first round of family visits after his death, I took Jessica and Oliver to REI to get gear and we left town quickly to camp near Mt. St. Helens."

"Somehow, we got to the wilderness without enough cash to cover the campground fee and had a slight panic. Jessica then realized that Wiley's $100 bill was still in his seat pocket. He got to spend his money on camping after all. Collectively, the family said a big, 'Thanks, buddy' out-loud to him. It was one of many bittersweet moments we will experience for the rest of our lives. Each happy time brings with it the sadness that he doesn't get to experience it."

"One of Wiley's happy times was listening to music and dancing. Damn, could that kid dance. He loved the Oregon Country Fair and the year before we left for London, we listened to a band there play a version of 'Enjoy yourself (It's later than you think)'. The words stuck with me that day three years ago and painfully so now:"


"You work and work for years and years, you're always on the go

You never take a minute off, too busy makin' dough

Someday, you say, you'll have your fun, when you're a millionaire

Imagine all the fun you'll have in your old rockin' chair

Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think

Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink

The years go by, as quickly as a wink

Enjoy yourself, enjoy yourself, it's later than you think"


This article originally appeared on 07.10.21

Sandhya with other members at a home meet-up

South Asian women across the country are finding social support in a thriving Facebook group devoted to them.

The Little Brown Diary has over 40,000 members, primarily between the ages of 20 and 40, and 100 subgroups devoted to niche topics. Some of these include mental health, entrepreneurship, career advice, and more.

Members of the group can discuss their experiences as South Asians, inner conflicts they face, and even bond over their favorite hobbies. The Facebook group has become a safe place for many of its members to find support in the most transformative periods of their lives. These include:

  • Supporting women in domestic violence and sexual assault circumstances
  • Sharing mental health and suicide resources
  • Connecting members to support each other through grief and loss
  • Helping members find the strength to get a divorce or defend their decision to be childfree
  • Helping them navigate career changes
  • Helping to find friends in a new city
  • Finding a community of other neurodivergent people in their shoes

“I joined the online community because I was looking for that sense of belonging and connection with others who shared similar experiences and backgrounds,” expressed Sandhya Simhan, one of the group admins.

“At the time, I was pregnant and eager to find other desi moms who could offer support, advice, and friendship during this significant life transition,” she says.

Another group admin, Henna Wadhwa, who works in Diversity and Inclusion in Washington, D.C., even uses the group to inspire new areas of research, including a study on ethnic-racial identity at work.

“I was surprised and excited for a group that brought together South Asian/brown women. I wanted to meet other women with similar research interests and who wanted to conduct academic research on South Asian American women,” Wadhwa says.


While social media isn’t always the best place to spend our time, studies show that the sense of community people get from joining online groups can be valuable to our mental health.

“The presence of LBD has allowed so many South Asian women to truly feel safe in their identity. The community we have built encourages each person to authentically and freely be themselves. It is a powerful sight to witness these South Asian women be vulnerable, break barriers, and support each other in their journeys,” says Wadhwa.

Hena and Neesha

According to an article in Psychology Today, a study on college students looked at whether social media could serve as a source of social support in times of stress. Turns out, these students were more likely to turn to their social media network rather than parents or mental health professionals for connection. The anonymity of virtual communities was also seen as appealing to those experiencing depression.

“The social support received in the online group promotes a sense of well-being and was associated with positive relationships and personal growth,” the article states.

This is why finding a community of like-minded individuals online can have such a positive impact in your life.

“There are almost half a million women in our target audience (millennial South Asians in North America) and about 10% of them are part of LBD. It’s been a game-changer for our community. LBD is all about embracing your true self and living your most authentic life. It's amazing to see how the members support, relate, learn, and lift each other,” says Wadhwa and Simhan.

Carl Sagan and a sliced apple

The concept of the fourth dimension seems beyond human comprehension. As three-dimensional beings, we are unable to see beyond a physical object's height, width and depth. What else could there be?

Enter Carl Sagan, revered as one of the greatest science communicators of his time. He possessed a unique gift for demystifying complex scientific concepts, making them accessible and thrilling for the general public. In 1980, on Episode 10 of the groundbreaking PBS show “Cosmos,” Sagan embarked on a mission to explain the seemingly impossible fourth dimension.


What’s excellent about Sagan’s explanation is that he uses simple and relatable objects: an apple and a Tesseract, or a hypercube.

Sagan began by discussing how a two-dimensional being living in a flat world would perceive a three-dimensional object like an apple.

“Imagine we live in this ‘flatland’/2-D plane with no concept of ‘up’ or ‘down.’ Then along comes a 3-D object like an apple. We do not even notice it until it crosses our plane of existence — and even then, we have no idea what the apple is,” Sagan explains. “We see only a fragment as it passes through our plane. There is no way we can comprehend the 3-D quality/dimension of the apple, because it is more than we can understand. We only have the evidence of what has passed through our plane.”

Sagan then related this two-dimensional experience of the third dimension to how we might try to understand the fourth. To do so, he used the Tesseract, a four-dimensional cube, to demonstrate how difficult it is for us to perceive or visualize dimensions beyond our own three. At this point, Sagan is asking the viewer to expand their minds to understand the fourth dimension metaphorically.

Sagan’s demonstration of the fourth dimension isn’t just a wonderful explanation of a scientific idea that many of us find difficult to comprehend; it’s also a great example of how to teach complex ideas by combining clear explanations with thought-provoking visuals.

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

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

Pete Davidson on "Saturday Night Live"

Singer Ariana Grande and "Saturday Night Live" cast member Pete Davidson were dating back in May of 2018.

Neither star had confirmed the relationship outright, but their reps weren't pushing back on reports claiming the two had linked up either. The singer and comedian's playful interactions on Instagram certainly suggested to fans the romance was budding.


While many celebrated the news, it inevitably came with a side of backlash too. Some of the criticism, however, crossed an unfortunate line.

Trolls began pointing to Davidson's history of mental illness to suggest he couldn't be in a healthy relationship.

The comedian felt it necessary to shut that down. Fast.

"Normally, I wouldn't comment on something like this cause like, fuck you," Davidson wrote in a note he shared to his Instagram story. "But [I've] been hearing a lot of 'people with BPD [Borderline Personality Disorder] can't be in relationships' talk. I just wanna let you know that's not true."

Davidson said he was diagnosed with BPD in 2016 after having lived through a "nightmare" year that involved rehab and grappling with the ups and downs of diagnosis. The comedian has also spoken openly about living with depression.

"Just because someone has a mental illness does not mean they can't be happy and in a relationship," Davidson wrote. "It also doesn't mean that person makes the relationship toxic."

After noting there are many life-changing treatments available for people like him, Davidson emphasized the importance of combating stigmas associated with mental illness.

"I just think it's fucked up to stigmatize people as crazy and say that they are unable to do stuff that anyone can do," he wrote. "It's not their fault and it's the wrong way for people to look at things."

Davidson has been praised by mental health advocates for using his celebrity to humanize his illnesses — and poking fun at himself along the way.

In one "SNL" segment that aired shortly after he went public with his diagnoses, the comedian spoke candidly about his mental illness with "Weekend Update" host Colin Jost.

"If you're in the cast of a late-night comedy show, it might help if they, you know, do more of your comedy sketches," Davidson joked about ways others can help him get through his dark times. "I was born depressed, but it might make me feel better if I was on TV more."

Like many comedians, Davidson often uses brash and cringeworthy lines as a form of therapy to overcome trauma. His father died on 9/11, for instance, and the comedian's folded the devastating loss into his routine with a comedic spin.

Laughter may not be the best medicine, but it certainly can help.

Davidson ended his message on Instagram clarifying why he decided to speak up in the first place.

"I'm simply writing this because I want everyone out there who has an illness to know that it's not true [that you can't be mentally ill and be in a relationship] and that anyone who says that is ill and full of shit," he wrote. "Mental illness is not a joke; it's a real thing."

"For all those struggling I want you to know that I love you and I understand you and it is going to be OK," Davidson concluded. "That's all. Love to everyone else."


This story originally appeared on 05.25.18

She was born for this.

Musical theater isn’t exactly for the hobbyist singer in general, but certain showtunes require so much skill that even the greats would shy away from them. “Defying Gravity,” from lyricist Stephen Schwartz and librettist Winnie Holzman’s “Wicked,” certainly falls into that category.

The iconic song, made famous by Idina Menzel, is a rollercoaster of key changes, dynamic shifts in tempo and volume, agile riffs and of course, that thrilling high belt at the end…all while being suspended in the air, mind you. It’s something that even the best of the best have to train for years to be able to do.

And yet, an 11-year-old made it look effortless.


Back in May of 2023, Olivia Lynes stepped onto the stage for “Britain’s Got Talent,” sporting a little pink dress with ruby red shoes.

As she tells the judges “hellooooo” in the most adorable accent ever, you’d never get the sense that this sweet, polite young girl was mere seconds away from blowing the roof off the place.

But then she opens her mouth to sing, leaving everybody floored from the very first note.

Watch:

Holy moly, was that incredible, or was that incredible?

Olivia would go on to channel Menzel a few more times, singing “Let It Go”and “Into The Unknown” from Disney’s “Frozen” and “Frozen 2,” rightfully getting dubbed “the new, undisputed Disney princess” by judge Bruno Tonioli.

As if Olivia weren’t enough living proof, science does tell us that it is entirely possible to be born a gifted singer. After all, our anatomy plays a huge role in our singing abilities—facial structure, vocal folds, nasal cavities, etc. And our genetics influence our anatomy. So it makes sense that some people come into this world with inherent advantages.

However, just like with any athletic endeavor (which singing most certainly is) our skill level can improve with practice and training. Still, we can marvel at those natural born Olympians who seem fated for greatness.

Pop Culture

Video shows how Gummy Bears are made in reverse

You’ll never look at a gummy bear the same way again.

Photo by Amit Lahav on Unsplash

Another type go gummy... Gummy Bears.

The first gummy bears were created in the 1920s by Hans Riegel, owner of the Haribo candy company in Bonn, Germany. Since, gummy candies have become popular worldwide and evolved to take the shapes of fish, sour patch kids, frogs, worms, and just about anything a clever candy maker can imagine.

But unlike the popular Disney '80s "Gummi Bears" cartoon, these sweet little guys don't come from a hollow tree in the forest. Sadly, their creation is a bit more terrifying.


In the video below, Belgian filmmaker Alina Kneepkens shows how the colorful snacks you bought at the movie theater actually began as pigskin. Yes, an NFL football and a gummy bear have the same humble beginnings. But if you're a vegan or vegetarian, there's no need to worry; there are candy manufacturers that make gummy bears out of agar and pectin so you can enjoy these fruity delights minus the swine skin.

Now, you know you want to sing along to this tune.

This article originally appeared on 9.3.21

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.

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