Can death of a young man save future kids in Florida’s foster care?

Can death of a young man save future kids in Florida’s foster care?
Sentinel special report: Fixing Foster CareApril 17, 2010|By Kate Santich, Orlando SentinelIn the last photo ever taken of him alive, Regis Little is a handsome teen, his head cocked back confidently, a bemused smile across his lips. A faint patch of young beard curls from his chin.

Frozen in that moment, he looks invincible.

In reality, the 18-year-old product of Florida’s foster-care system was tragically vulnerable.
One night last July, several months after he had aged out of the system, he was found stabbed in a parking lot off International Drive, a crowd of spectators gathered around his body. By the time paramedics arrived, Regis Little was dead.

“It’s one of those things you hope never happens to any kid,” said Bart Mawoussi, a spokesman for the local nonprofit agency that contracts with the state to help foster children. “When it did happen, we had to stop and ask ourselves, ‘What went wrong? Could we have saved him?’ ”

The agency, Family Services of Metro Orlando, took the radical step of forming a task force to investigate the young man’s turbulent journey through the state’s system and to recommend changes. What they ultimately found were foster-care and school systems that missed opportunities to intervene with a child who needed stability, special education and an advocate.

Though the answers would come too late for Regis, perhaps they could help the 1,500 other foster kids who will turn 18 this year in Florida — about 140 in Orange and Osceola counties alone.

Results from a recent national study of former foster children are sobering: By their mid-20s, about 37 percent have been homeless, nearly 25 percent lack a high-school diploma or GED, and fewer than half are working (and their median income is $8,000 a year). Sixty percent of the men have been convicted of a crime.

The findings are “heartbreaking,” said Carrie Hoeppner, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Children and Families central region. Though there is evidence that Florida’s former foster youth fare better than those in the study, she points out, it is nonetheless up to the kids to take advantage of the full range of state services that can salvage their futures.

And that’s a big problem

About yvonnemason

Background:  The eldest of five children, Yvonne was born May 17, 1951 in Atlanta, Georgia. Raised in East Point, Georgia, she moved to Jackson County, Ga. until 2006 then moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida where she currently makes her home.  Licensed bounty hunter for the state of Georgia. Education:  After a 34 year absence, returned to college in 2004. Graduated with honors in Criminal Justice with an Associate’s degree from Lanier Technical College in 2006. Awards:  Nominated for the prestigious GOAL award in 2005 which encompasses all of the technical colleges. This award is based not only on excellence in academics but also leadership, positive attitude and the willingness to excel in one’s major. Affiliations:  Beta Sigma Phi Sorority  Member of The Florida Writer’s Association – Group Leader for St Lucie County The Dream:  Since learning to write at the age of five, Yvonne has wanted to be an author. She wrote her first novel Stan’s Story beginning in 1974 and completed it in 2006. Publication seemed impossible as rejections grew to 10 years. Determined, she continued adding to the story until her dream came true in 2006. The Inspiration:  Yvonne’s brother Stan has been her inspiration and hero in every facet of her life. He was stricken with Encephalitis at the tender age of nine months. He has defied every roadblock placed in his way and has been the driving force in every one of her accomplishments. He is the one who taught her never to give up The Author: Yvonne is currently the author of several novels, including:  Stan’s Story- the true story of her brother’s accomplishments, it has been compared to the style of Capote, and is currently being rewritten with new information for re-release.  Tangled Minds - a riveting story about a young girl’s bad decision and how it taints everyone’s life around her yet still manages to show that hope is always possible. This novel has been compared to the writing of Steinbeck and is currently being written as a screenplay. This novel will be re-released by Kerlak Publishing in 2009  Brilliant Insanity – released by Kerlak Publishing October 2008  Silent Scream – Released by October 2008- Slated to be made into a movie Yvonne’s Philosophy in Life - “Pay it Forward”: “In this life we all have been helped by others to attain our dreams and goals. We cannot pay it back but what we can do is ‘pay it forward’. It is a simple
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