Monday, June 03, 2013

Pomeroy on Doing the Right Thing and Foster Care

Claire Pomeroy
CIRM photo
On Claire Pomeroy's last day as a member of the governing board of the $3 billion California stem cell agency, she also published an essay on the Huffington Post in which she discussed fleeing from an abusive home at age 14.

Pomeroy, former vice chancellor and dean of the medical school at UC Davis and now president of the Lasker Foundation in New York,  wrote last month,
“For some children, the uncertainty of life on the street is better than certainty of violence at home. It was for me. At age 14, I escaped from an abusive home with no money, nowhere to go and only the clothes I was wearing. I remember staring into the night, standing somewhere between fear and freedom. I became one of the millions of homeless teens, yet I was lucky because foster care ultimately saved me.”

“However, after an emergency placement and three foster homes, the challenges were not over. At 17 I aged out of the foster care system early when my foster parents moved out of state. On my own again, I had to find a job, a place to live and finish high school. Then I climbed the next mountain to graduate from college and medical school.”
Pomeroy said she only recently began publicly talking about her foster care experience. She said she is doing so because “many  people lack an understanding of the harsh statistics and their impact on the country's future. The nation faces a crisis that demands a call to action to start truly caring about foster youth before it is too late.”

She said that she was “lucky” in the foster care system but said that many children, particularly minorities among others such as the disabled, were not as fortunate and “were failed by the system and society.” Pomeroy called them “throwaway children” who were “robbed of their ideals, gave up hope and struggled to find a reason to live.”

Less than half of the foster children who “age out” of the system graduate from high school, she wrote. Only 3 percent to 11 percent earn a bachelor's degree. More than 400,000 children were in foster care in 2011 and have a one in 11 chance of being homeless.

Pomeroy called for expansion and improvement of foster care across the country. “It is time to stop forcing children to be the heroes of their own survival,” she wrote. “Now is the time to do the right the right thing.”
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On a personal note, we have four grandchildren, one of whom was adopted out of foster care as a toddler. The other was adopted at birth. Some of the siblings of those two African-American children remain in foster care today.
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