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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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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

        Melissa McCarthy's "Saturday Night Live" opening monologue  — a tribute to moms on the eve of Mother's Day — was adorable, as she led a smiley, unassuming mom from the audience, a woman named Joan, on a backstage (and hilarious) tour of the SNL studios.

        But it was one line during the segment that especially caught the internet's attention.


        Actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, who wed in 2012, were backstage during McCarthy's opening as part of the sketch.

        "I may have been drunk when I invited them," McCarthy told Joan as they passed by the couple. "Don't worry, the Livelys are fine. They can handle it."

        Did you catch the bit that had people on Twitter cheering? It was the blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment when McCarthy nonchalantly referred to the couple as "the Livelys" (as opposed to "the Reynolds").

        People ... loved it.

        Like, really loved it.

        It took the opening monologue from pretty darn cute to absolutely delightful in seconds.

        It was an easy-to-miss moment, but one that clearly struck a chord. Maybe it's time we rethink the outdated expectation that a woman should take her husband's name after marriage?

        It seems like the world could use a few more Livelys.

        Watch McCarthy's opening below:

        More

        A would-be congressman has a really good reason for not living in his district.

        At the expense of some votes, he sends a strong message about what matters.

        Jon Ossoff wants to represent Georgia's 6th District in Congress, but there's one problem: He doesn't technically live there.

        During an interview with CNN's Alisyn Camerota, Ossoff admitted he isn't eligible to vote for himself because he lives just outside of district boundaries. While it's legal to run for office in a district other than the one you live in, it certainly can be frowned upon.

        Jon Ossoff. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.


        Ossoff grew up in the district but moved just south of there so he and his girlfriend, Alisha Kramer, could be closer to Atlanta's Emory University, where she's going to medical school.

        Opponents jumped on Ossoff's admission that he doesn't actually have residency in the 6th District, with the National Republican Congressional Committee going so far as to call him a carpetbagger.

        The truth is much simpler: Many people relocate for the sake of their partner's career.

        Kramer (left) and Ossoff. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

        As a society, we've come to expect women to follow men and not vice versa.

        Advice columnists have taken stabs at parsing these expectations, finance websites have published articles about how to succeed as a "trailing spouse," and support groups and websites have even begun popping up to help those who follow their loved ones cope with what can certainly be a stressful time. But still, it's often assumed this is a burden that should placed on women. Ossoff's decision to support Kramer shows there's a flip side to that narrative.

        None of this is to suggest it's somehow better he lives outside of the district he hopes to represent, but simply that life and relationships are complicated in their own ways.

        Ossoff. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

        For what it's worth, Ossoff and Kramer plan to move back to the district as soon as she finishes her medical training.

        The ability to find compromise and willingness to sacrifice is key in any healthy relationship. Ossoff probably could have rushed to relocate after President Trump selected Tom Price as his Health and Human Services secretary, creating the need for a special election.

        But that would have sent a message in itself that his support for Kramer was contingent upon him not having anything better to do. By sticking to the couple's original plan, even at the prospect of losing voters, he sends another message about who he is as a person — and that's just as important.

        Ossoff and Kramer meet with supporters. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

        It's the story of "the big three," a set of triplets (a biological brother and sister, and their adopted brother), and the two parents, Jack and Rebecca, who shaped their adult lives.

        "This Is Us" is the shamefully, unapologetically tear-jerking NBC hit that has millions tuning in every week to ugly-cry together, and it just wrapped its first season.

        The show isn't always perfect, but is thoughtful in its portrayal of characters we're not used to seeing — maybe none more so than Jack Pearson, the dutiful and selfless dad of the family.


        Milo Ventimiglia plays Jack. Photo by NBCUniversal Media, LLC.

        "This Is Us" — though good at sprinkling in humor here and there — is not a comedy. Jack is not obligated to be funny, which likely is part of the reason he's been spared from becoming the buffoonish dad we're used to seeing in TV and movies.

        It's not just that (and the fact his mustache/beard are #goals) that makes Jack such a compelling character. There are (at least) five things that make Jack a pretty damn good model of masculinity in an age where being a blustering, blathering "alpha male" can get you pretty far.

        By the way, no spoilers for the season finale here. (But if you don't already know that Jack does not live to grow old with Rebecca, where have you even been for the last three months?)

        1. He doesn't apologize for showing a full range of human emotions.

        When we first meet Jack in the series' pilot episode, he is a man in total control. When he and a pregnant Rebecca arrive at the hospital, the babies on their way, the doctor warns them the risks during delivery will be high.

        "We're walking out of this hospital with three healthy babies and a healthy wife," Jack reassures the doctor while also supporting Rebecca during contractions.

        Unfortunately, the third baby, a little boy, is stillborn. When Jack gets the news, he breaks down in tears in the waiting room, before ultimately deciding to bring home Randall, an abandoned baby being treated at the same hospital.

        It's not the last time we see Jack's emotional vulnerability. Because, you know what? It's OK for dudes to cry.

        2. He's fiercely loyal to his family.

        Yes, Jack is the main breadwinner for the family, but it's not what makes him a man. It's dedication that goes far beyond just working long hours.

        For example, there’s a secretary at work constantly batting her eyes at him, and in one episode, she finally makes a move. He turns her down with ease, and frankly, the show doesn't make a big deal of it. Jack doesn’t get any hero points for remaining faithful, as he shouldn’t. Jack proves real men can be complex beings with morals and values that aren't based around sex.

        It also becomes clear later in the series Jack was the one who pushed for marriage and children with Rebecca, a nice change of pace from the commitment-allergic men we're used to seeing on TV.

        "To me, you are every part my son." GIF from "This Is Us"/YouTube.

        3. He's a great, great, great dad.

        A lot of TV dads love their kids and will show it through goofy hijinks, roughhousing, or gruffly bonding over sports. But not Jack. He handles the tough stuff too.

        Like who could forget the time he stayed up all night sewing Madonna gloves for his daughter's birthday party and, when things didn't go as planned, tried to cheer her up by asking her to teach him how to "vogue"?

        In one of his best moments, though, Jack realizes he as a white man can't be the only role model in his black son's life, so he takes him to an all-black karate class where he can learn how to face the difficulties that come with being a man of color.

        4. He's a true romantic.

        TV and movies are rife with dunderheaded men forgetting birthdays and anniversaries, scrambling around to cover their tracks with thoughtless, last-minute gestures. Not Jack. In one episode, he rents his and Rebecca's now-vacant first apartment for a night, fills it with candles and champagne, and challenges the both of them to never forget the things they love about each other.

        He constantly finds time and energy to make his wife (and his kids, for that matter) feel special, loved, and appreciated.

        Doesn't get much more manly than that.

        "Rebecca, you have changed the way I think about love." GIF from "This Is Us"/YouTube

        5. Despite all of these things, Jack is a flawed man.

        Throughout much of the series, Jack seems perfect. Rebecca even describes him as a "superhero" more than once.

        But Jack battles with a drinking problem. Later, he has trouble reigning in his jealousy of another man in Rebecca's life. He occasionally crumbles under the weight of being the family’s rock.

        Through it all, Jack needs his wife, and he knows it. In these moments, it's Rebecca who picks him up and helps him be a better man.

        Because no matter how "manly" you are, no one can do it all alone.

        "From now on, I'm going to be an 11 [out of 10] for you, baby." GIF from "This Is Us"/YouTube.

        We know Jack dies before his kids are grown, but with the show's jump-around timeline, let's hope he shows up plenty in season two.

        After all, he still has a lot more to teach us dudes about what it really means to be a man.