WXXI AM News

foster care

We’ve been hearing national conversations about the emotional price children pay after being separated from their parents at the Mexican border. A local nonprofit says similar feelings of loneliness and uncertainty are part of the experience of hundreds of thousands of children who have been orphaned or part of the foster care system.

An upcoming re-enactment sponsored by Children Awaiting Parents will enable community members to ride an “orphan train.” Years ago, orphan trains ran from eastern American cities to the Midwest, transporting orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children who needed families. Those children would be evaluated at their destination to determine if they were “worthy” of adoption.

This hour, we hear from adoptive parents who share their stories, and we talk to experts about how to help kids navigate the emotional impact of foster care and adoption. In studio:

Listen to your mother! That's always good advice. And it's the title of an annual production -- a series of real-life stories told by local moms.

What happens when a grandmother has to play the role of mother again, but doesn't have the same legal rights? What does a mother say to a child who is learning more about their transgender self? These are just some of the stories we hear with our guests:

  • Kimberly Melvin, community integration specialist for Starbridge Inc. (2018 cast)
  • Nicole Bayly, judge for the Town of Wheatland, principal law clerk to Family Court Judge James Walsh, and foster/adoptive parent (2018 cast)
  • Terri Cook, author of Allies & Angels, Speaker & Advocate (2016 cast)
  • Sally Bittner Bonn, director of youth education at Writers & Books (production team and 2016 cast)

From Foster Child to Foster Parent: that's the subject of a discussion for the Hillside speaker series. Hillside brought in Rob Scheer, a former foster teen. Scheer and his husband have adopted four children out of foster care, and they formed the nonprofit Comfort Cases to provide overnight bags, pajamas, hygiene items, and comfort items to children and teens transitioning into foster care.

We hear Rob's story and discuss the state of foster care. Our guests: 

In Monroe County there are more than 400 children in foster care. Many enter the system as a result of abuse and/or neglect.

In honor of Child Abuse Awareness month, WXXI News – in participation with Side Effects Public Media – is presenting Fragile Lives, a series about the health outcomes of children in foster care.

Lead reporter Michelle Faust joins our discussion to examine why foster kids are at a higher risk for trauma, and we explore the efforts to make their lives better. We also discuss the Foster Stories project. If you're a former foster child with a story to tell, stories are collected here.

Our guests:

  • Damon Bradford, SUNY Brockport senior and former foster kid
  • Elisabeth Coykendall, former foster kid
  • Amy Realbuto, nurse practitioner at Starlight Pediatrics

“Alright, we’re going to go check those eyes and ears now buddy. Ok?” Nurse Kristen Marrese leads 4-year-old Daniel Atkinson down the hall for an eye exam. It’s part of his routine check-up at a clinic in Rochester, New York, Starlight Pediatrics.

During the visit, which took nearly two hours, Daniel also got up to date on his vaccines and his nurse practitioner gave him a thorough check-up of his growth and development. He’s been coming here since he was an infant.

Excited and hungry, three children chant as food is served (“We want potatoes! Potatoes!) and ask what else is for dinner (fish and green beans as it happens). The hubbub continues until Mom cracks down:

“Please! Sit. On your bottom.” The children obey. They continue to buzz as they eat.