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NYC community rallies over injustice in foster care system

BRENNAN N. JOHNSON Special to the AmNews | 8/1/2012, 3:20 p.m.

Injustices in foster care programs have gone unnoticed for too long. Last Thursday, the Foster Parent Advocacy Foundation and members of the community took to the streets to rally for the changes they think need to be made.

Community members involved with the Foster Parent Advocacy Foundation held their rally in the Bronx. They protested for hours, starting at 11 a.m. and ending around 4 p.m., in front of numerous foster care agencies located in the Bronx including Edwin Gould, Episcopal Social Services, Jewish Child Care Association and Cardinal McCloskey.

"The time is now to stand up and speak out. We can no longer idly sit by. Foster parents and youths, if you are out there, you need to join us and support this cause. Don't wait for the agencies to mistreat you--it may be too late. We will not be silent!" Hooper said.

The Foster Parent Advocacy Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization that has been providing services since 2008, makes it their goal to bring awareness to the larger community. The founders of the organization, Dorin Matthews and Sylvia Hooper, continue to educate, advocate and empower foster parents and foster youth in all five boroughs.

According to the most recent census conducted in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are half a million children from the United States in foster care. Forty percent of them are Black.

Protestors said children who end up in foster care experience the challenge of being taken away from their homes. They said to have a foster agency consistently fail to give them the things they need to survive is not fair.

"We are out here protesting to support our foster parents and youths because the agencies have not been giving the necessary services to our clients," said Melinda Santa, a foster care parent advocate. The rally saw residents from all over New York City come to the Bronx to help change the direction that foster care systems are currently taking.

"As a foster parent advocate, I feel very strongly about this. We have to bring awareness to this cause," said Santa.

The premise for foster care is that a child will be in a better place than the one they were removed from. However, the Foster Parent Agency Foundation and community members who participated in the protest think a lot of foster care agencies are not fulfilling this promise.

According to both Matthews and Hooper, foster care agencies are suppose to visit the homes in which foster youth are residing to make sure that everything is going smoothly. In addition, children should not be exposed to inappropriate environments or neglectful foster parents. Unfortunately, these scenarios occur more than they should.

Both Matthews and Hooper are very familiar with what goes on in both foster care and adoption systems because they both have experience with the system. Matthews has been both a foster and adoptive parent, which is why she makes it her duty to see foster care agencies get better each day. Hooper, on the other hand, grew up in foster care and then eventually was adopted.

"This was wonderful, it was so nice, and the exposure is out of control! It was good. Keep up the good work," Cellette Johnson, a foster parent, said.

The Foster Parent Advocacy Foundation plans to continue making rounds to every foster agency in New York City to make their voices heard. "We will not be silent" is the motto for those involved in foster care.

"The time is now for justice to be served and for foster parents and youths to receive their vindication," Hooper said.