fragile lives

Three-year-old Jaime is excited to talk about what he’s learning in school today. “I’m happy!” he declares while showing off a card with a smiley face and the word “happy” at the bottom. Why?  “My mommy loves me!”

Interacting with these feelings cards is part of the curriculum at Jaime’s preschool, a federally-funded Head Start site in Rochester, New York.

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.

Fragile Lives

Apr 4, 2016

More than 650,000 kids spent at least part of the year in foster care in 2014, according to the latest national numbers. Trauma from a history of child abuse, neglect, addiction, and domestic violence can affect the long-term physical and mental health outcomes of kids in the system.

During the month of April, WXXI News is teaming with Side Effects Public Media explore the health outcomes of kids in the foster care system.