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Education

Texas teacher details how distrust and legal hoops have destroyed her classroom library

This goes so far beyond just banning specific titles.

teachers books classroom library texas

Stringent new requirements for classroom libraries have teachers up in arms.

Few things are more integral to a child's future successes than developing the skill and habit of reading. Study after study has shown that reading, even for pleasure, helps kids develop critical thinking skills, improve their vocabulary, increase their ability to understand others and more. Reading can even helps kids do better in math.

Because reading is such a vital learning tool, one would think caring parents would want schools to support kids reading however they can. That support might look like full, rich school libraries and classrooms full of books that kids can choose from when they have some downtime.

But a push for extreme censorship, fueled by politicians who see an opportunity to garner support through fear, has put teachers with large classroom libraries into impossible positions.

In a Facebook post that's been shared more than 19,000 times, an elementary school teacher in Texas has detailed how her state's new regulations on books in the classroom have made it virtually impossible to offer students the class library she's been building for more than a decade. Emily Clay shared a photo of several shelves filled with bins of books.

"Here is my classroom library," she wrote. "This is over 1,600 books chosen for my elementary students. This is over a decade and thousands of dollars and countless donations of collecting. This is my students’ favorite place to go in my classroom. This is where I go when I have a reluctant reader to find something just right to spark their interest.

"According to the state of Texas, this is dangerous. This is a place where children may be indoctrinated or exposed to inappropriate content. This is just one more area where teachers cannot be trusted as educational experts. This is a battleground."

Clay shared that every teacher in her district now has to go through a tedious process that starts with entering the title, author and year published for every single book in their classroom into a spreadsheet. "Then we have to go through a painstaking process to vet each and every book---even if we’ve read them, even if we grew up reading them---to make sure that 'real experts' have determined that the book content is appropriate for the age level we teach, and also enter that data," she wrote.

This summer, Clay scanned all of her classroom books into her own library system—a process that only required a barcode scan of each book. That alone took six hours, she said. There's no way she could process each book and enter the details into a spreadsheet the way the policy requires within any reasonable amount of time. Even if each book took just three minutes to process, it would take 80 hours to enter her entire 1,600-book library. No teacher has even a fraction of that amount of time. And they are supposed to have this process completed by November.

"So what am I going to do?" she wrote. "I already don’t have on-contract time to do all the things we are required to do. What I’m going to do is box up every one of these books and put them away. And these shelves will be bare. I won’t be the only one putting away all of my books. Classrooms across Texas will be bare of libraries because of this.

"I ugly-cried this morning. One of my favorite things about my job is getting emails from parents telling me how enthusiastically their child is now reading at home.

"How are kids going to learn to love to read if they can’t hold books in their hands? Putting barriers between kids and books is one of the worst things I can think of."

Roadblocking classroom reading material is especially harmful to low-income students, who may have few, if any, books at home to read.

As Clay points out in her post, kids already have access to all of the things parents are afraid they might see in a book right at their fingertips with smartphones, tablets and computers. Books aren't the enemy here.

"Sure, there are some vigilant parents who make sure their children are never exposed to anything they don’t want them to see," Clay wrote. "And while these parents could have chosen to take their kids to the public libraries themselves and choose books they deem appropriate, instead they chose to raise up their voices against teachers like me and decide that everyone’s child should be restricted; every child should have to live up to whatever standards they have chosen for their own children. They've made it clear they think we're all in this profession to tarnish and brainwash their children. This TINY minority of people are the ones who are making things like this happen. And just like with everything else in our under-funded, under-respected, over-worked, under-paid, under-staffed industry, we're probably all going to roll over and take it."

But Clay also shared that more teachers will quit because of this kind of micromanagement. She's right. People often think that teachers quit because they are underpaid, but often it's the lack of respect for teachers as professionals and the top-down decisions that make teaching effectively difficult or impossible that push teachers away from their chosen career.

But Clay's final words really get to the heart of why these hoops teachers are being asked to jump through are so problematic.

"I LOVE my students," she wrote. "I would NEVER put anything in my classroom library that I thought might expose them to something inappropriate or too mature. I know I can get parent volunteers to come in and donate their time to help me catalog my extensive collection. But what I'm really mourning is the absolute lack of trust in highly-trained educators who have poured their souls into this profession and the children of people who believe we're indoctrinating them."

This goes so far beyond raising concerns about or even banning some specific titles. What this says is: We don't trust teachers. We think you're trying to harm kids with your cute little classroom library so we're going to make it as hard as possible to even have one. If there are concerns over specific books? Fine, raise them. All reasonable people would agree that certain material is not appropriate for children at all and has no place in the classroom. Some books might fall into a subjective gray area and be up for debate, and that's fine. Those are healthy debates to have.

But parents are taking issue with books that aren't sexually explicit but simply include characters who have two same-sex parents or characters who are transgender—those books are simply reflective of the world kids live in. If parents are taking issue with books that give deference to the perspectives of people harmed by racism, that is also reflective of the world they live in. If parents are really that concerned, they can send kids to school with their own personal books to read from home and inform the teacher that they aren't allowed to use the class library. Or they can choose to homeschool.

Just stop punishing teachers for crimes they haven't committed and making their jobs far harder than they already are. They don't deserve it, and it's ultimately doing more harm than good to kids who benefit from access to classroom libraries.

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.

Gardiner Brothers/TikTok (with permission)

The Gardiner Brothers stepping in time to Beyoncé's "Texas Hold 'Em."

In early February 2024, Beyoncé rocked the music world by releasing a surprise new album of country tunes. The album, Renaissance: Act II, includes a song called "Texas Hold 'Em," which shot up the country charts—with a few bumps along the way—and landed Queen Bey at the No.1 spot.

As the first Black female artist to have a song hit No. 1 on Billboard's country music charts, Beyoncé once again proved her popularity, versatility and ability to break barriers without missing a beat. In one fell swoop, she got people who had zero interest in country music to give it a second look, forced country music fans to broaden their own ideas about what country music looks like and prompted conversations about bending and blending musical genres and styles.

And she inspired the Gardiner Brothers to add yet another element to the mix—Irish stepdance.


In a TikTok that's been viewed over 17 million times, the Gardiner Brothers don cowboy hats while they step in time to "Texas Hold 'Em," much to the delight of viewers everywhere.

Watch:

@gardinerbrothers

Beyoncé 🤝 Irish dancing #beyonce #countrymusic

Michael and Matthew Gardiner are professional Irish-American stepdancers and choreographers who have gained international fame with their award-winning performances. They've also built a following of millions on social media with videos like this one, where they dance to popular songs, usually in an outdoor environment.

The melding of Irish dance with country music sung by a Black American female artist may seem unlikely, but it could be viewed merely as country music coming back to its roots. After all, country music has its roots in the ballad tradition of the Irish, English and Scottish settlers in the Appalachian region of the U.S. And despite modern country music's struggle to break free from "music for white people" stereotypes, it has roots in African-American traditions as well. For instance, the banjo, which has long been used in bluegrass and country music, was created by enslaved Africans and their descendents during the colonial era, according to The Smithsonian.

People are loving the blending of genres and culture that the TikTok exemplifies.

"Never thought I’d see Irish step dancing while Beyoncé sings country," wrote on commenter. "My life is complete. ♥️"

"So happy Beyoncé dropped this song and exposed my timeline to diversified talent 👏🏽👏🏽," wrote another.

"Beyoncé brought the world together with this song 😭," offered another person.

"Ayeeee Irish Dancing has entered the BeyHive chatroom… WELCOME!! 🔥🔥🔥" exclaimed another.

"I don’t think I can explain how many of my interests are intersecting here," wrote one commenter, reflecting what several others shared as well.

The Beyoncé/Gardiner Brothers combo and the reactions to it are a good reminder that none of us fit into one box of interest or identity. We're all an eclectic mix of tastes and styles, so we can almost always find a way to connect with others over something we enjoy. What better way to be reminded of that fact than through an unexpected mashup that blends the magic of music with the delight of dance? Truly, the arts are a powerful uniting force we should utilize more often.

And for an extra bit of fun, the Gardiner Brothers also shared their bloopers from filming the video. Turns out stepping in the rain isn't as easy as they make it look.

Beyoncé Bloopers #texasholdem #gardinerbrothers

@gardinerbrothers

Beyoncé Bloopers #texasholdem #gardinerbrothers

This article originally appeared on 2.26.24

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

Three woman walking down city streets.

A forensics student named Alex recently shared vital information on TikTok that all women should know. She detailed the specific signs male predators are looking for when they choose a victim.

Her video is based on a 2013 study entitled “Psychopathy and Victim Selection: The Use of Gait as a Cue to Vulnerability.” For the study, researchers interviewed violent criminals in prison and asked them the type of women they’d be most likely to victimize.

The study found that the criminals all agreed that how the woman walked was a deciding factor.


“What the selected women all had in common was the way that they walked and how they generally held themselves in public,” Alex says in the video she later deleted but has been shared broadly across the platform.

@gatita_bunee

How to walk for your safety! #women #safety #tips #walking #kidnapping #murder #attacks #fyp

“The selected women all had a similar ‘awkwardness’ to the way that they walked and carried themselves,” she continued. “The first part of the woman had a gait that was a little bit too small for their body, which resulted in smaller steps, slower speed and their arms more typically to their sides, or crossed, as well as their heads being down and not really taking in their general surroundings, which indicated three different things to these potential attackers.”

The woman’s body language signaled to attackers that she was fearful and anxious and because her head was down, she'd be easier to surprise. Alex then described the second type of woman the criminals said they’d target.

“On the other hand, the other part of the women that were selected had a gait that seemed a bit too big for their body and their arms tended to flail to the sides and seemed just overly awkward,” Alex continued.

The woman with the bigger gait signaled to potential attackers that she may be clumsy and won’t put up a good fight. “Because their arms were out and flailing to the side, it left the lower body open to, again, come around and grab them,” she said.

woman walking, predators, crime

Two women walking down the street.

via Mâide Arslan/Pexels

The video was helpful because Alex also discussed the types of women the attackers wouldn’t pursue. Alex says these women “walked with a gait that tended to be more natural to their body.” She adds they moved at the same pace as those in the immediate area, with their shoulders back and chins up and asserting a general sense of confidence.

“Essentially, the women that were not selected gave off an energy that said, ‘Don’t mess with me. I will put up a good fight.’ And that’s why they weren’t selected,” Alex said. “I know that it sounds silly, but something as simple as the way you walk or the way that you carry yourself in public could determine the likelihood that you become a target of a predator.”

Alex concluded her video by sharing an acronym that can help prevent women from being victimized while in public: STAAR.

S(tride) — Walk with a natural stride to your body and not too far apart or short.

T(all) — Stand tall. Keep your shoulders back and your chin up. Assert a natural confidence and dominance to those around you.

A(rms)—Swing your arms naturally by your sides, avoiding keeping them too close to your body or flailing out of your natural range of motion.

A(wareness) — Stay aware of your surroundings. Take notice if something feels or looks off.

R(elax): Stay cool, calm, and collected and don’t indicate to a potential attacker that you feel or see something is wrong.







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