Saturday, March 17, 2007

Subsidized Guardianship Was a Miracle for Me

By Rob Johnson, former foster youth, Illinois/Iowa

When I was 6, I went into foster care. No one told me why I had to leave home. But I am one of the fortunate ones. My story has a happy ending.

Three years after I entered foster care, my aunt was granted one of the first subsidized guardianships in Illinois. She could never have provided for me and my sisters without support to help defray the costs of raising three more children. With that support, I was able to leave foster care for good.

Finding safety, stability, and love had a wonderful effect on me. Once labeled a slow learner, I was told I wouldn't graduate eighth grade. After I had a permanent, loving home with my aunt, I did so well that I eventually earned a full academic scholarship to Drake University in Iowa, where I am studying business and have my own radio show.

I was able to find my miracle through subsidized guardianship, but other foster children are not so lucky.

The federal government should provide funds to states for children who leave foster care to live permanently with grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other guardians. In many cases, if relatives choose to become legal guardians rather than foster parents, they lose federal foster care assistance, which pays for things like food and clothing. That just isn't right.

To take a child away from his family is one of the most heartbreaking things you can do. To put him back with his relatives is one of the greatest gifts you can give. Other foster children deserve such an opportunity.

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