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Fostering the future

Arturo Parham Bey | 7/14/2010, 5 p.m.

Many issues and hardships face our youth today during a period when they should be spent learning and growing; should be full of life and joyous light.
Upon arrival into this new and foreign world, our children are entitled to all the love and protection that we as parents and as a society are obligated to give them. Unfortunately, this is not the reality for many of our children. Too many of them are born into situations that even the strongest adults would have trouble dealing with.
Our youth today are up against what seem to be insurmountable odds--issues ranging from single parent homes, drugs, gangs, violence, poverty, poor education, and the list goes on.
Perhaps one of the most overlooked and troubling issues is the number of our youth in the foster care system. According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there are approximately 523,000 children in foster care. A staggering number for a so-called civilized nation. "African-Americans" make up roughly 15 percent of the U.S. population of people who are under 18 years of age, but this group makes up about 40 percent of the children in the foster care system. Have we abandoned our children, our future ... ourselves?
What does it mean to "foster"?
Foster is a verb that means to promote the growth or development of; further; encourage. So, who is it that should be held responsible for fostering? Should it be left up to social workers and group homes to foster our children?
I know firsthand the impact that a good home has on orphaned children. I have had three foster brothers and their transformation and growth has been remarkable. From this experience, I have gathered one clear truth--that is, the most invaluable investment we can make as a race is not in any stock or bond. The greatest investment we can make is in our youth. Our children are full of so much potential and creativity.
It's unbelievable to me how something so simple as nurturing and loving our children could solve the problems we face as a nation in less than a generation's time. The power and potential that our children hold within them is immense. We, as the adults, need to foster the future. As it is in nature, seeds need nourishment to grow strong and be healthy. Our seeds require the same. Throughout the majority of my life, foster care never factored into my mind as an issue we had to face. However, by witnessing my mother and sister open their hearts and homes to children who needed them, it became quite clear to me that our youth hold the solution to our problems. What we instill in them is what will be returned unto us. They are truly our voice. I commend anyone who takes up the challenging and noble task of being a foster parent. The rewards are limitless. Foster the Future.