Make a Difference for Foster Children

Posted: Feb 16, 2012 12:56 PM

I am an adopted son. I am a very lucky adopted son. And as an adopted son I want all adoptees like me to have the same wonderful adoptive parents I was lucky enough to have.

My biological mother was an unmarried young woman from Ohio who had an affair with a married man. It was 1945 -- my biological father was in the Army and was shipped off to France to fight in the war while my mother went to California to give birth to me.

My mother made the painful decision to put me up for adoption. Thankfully, I was adopted by none other than the actor Ronald Reagan and his then-wife Jane Wyman. No youngster ever had more loving parents, despite their divorce.

Unlike me, however, many never find a loving permanent home. They grow up in a group home, or are shuffled from foster home to foster home. Tragically the majority of children who "age out" of foster care are not equipped to live as productive adults. Statistics show that they are less likely to graduate from high school. They are less likely to be employed and, even when they are employed, are more likely to have jobs that do not pay a living wage.

Moreover, they are more likely to experience violence, homelessness and mental illness. And they are more likely to fall victim to substance abuse and to be incarcerated. Females are more likely to have unwanted pregnancies. Our nation's foster children deserve better. They deserve the chance to be properly prepared for adulthood.

Jimmy Wayne -- country music singer, child advocate and my friend -- brought to my attention two bills now before the Tennessee Legislature -- HB 2337 in the House and SB 2199 in the Senate, which will allow youth in Tennessee to stay in foster care until the age of 21. As a national advocate for children, I strongly support this legislation and encourage all members of the Tennessee General Assembly to vote in support of it.

Children are often the real victims of divorce when parents, once apparently devoted to each other, suddenly become enemy camps with fathers on one side and mothers on the other. Tragically the children are sometimes forced to take sides in the marital combat, estranging themselves from one of their parents, perhaps forever.

In such an atmosphere, what should have been a loving home can be transformed into a field of strife. Children deserve better. Even foster children in good situations need more time to get their lives on track.

Join me in supporting an effort that will help make a difference.