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Visit our Children Gallery to see art and poetry created by our foster youth.
The Texas Youth Connection website is a resource for youth in the Texas foster care system, alumni of foster care or for youth seeking general tips and info on education, finances, records, diversity, health, contacts, job links, food, housing, art, photos, books, stories, hotlines, and hot stuff.
Girl finds loving adoptive family,learns life lesson from her dog
"I never gave up the hope for a family."
As a child growing up in foster care, Alexis M. may not have lived a dog's life, but she's learned a lot from her dog, Lucky. "I’ve learned that you can overcome a bad start in life from my dog," she says in her contribution to the recently released book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: What I Learned From My Dog.
"When he came to us he was thin and hungry and had bald spots from fleas. He had an infection. The people who had him wanted to get rid of him. He was the last in the litter and if they couldn’t find a home for him they were going to shoot him. My neighbor took him so he wouldn’t be shot, but she couldn’t keep him. My mom and dad decided to let me have him."
Alexis, who now lives in northeast Texas, knew the dog needed a loving home of his own. She knew because, like thousands of foster children awaiting adoption, she once asked herself, "Why not me? Why can't I have a family?"
"I understand how his life has been because my life had pretty much been the same," she says. "Even though he was a dog, I understood how it made him feel to be treated that way. I was in foster care for almost five years. My first years of life were really tough. Taking care of him has helped me deal with some of my past hurts and problems."
"Another thing I’ve learned from my dog is not to give up," she says. "I never gave up the hope for a family. I was adopted when I was eight years old. We got Lucky soon after my adoption was final. I knew I would be here forever. Lucky helps me feel secure and reminds me that hard times won’t last forever."
"Taking care of Lucky made me want to help other dogs. I’ve decided to become a veterinarian when I grow up. For now I try to help any dogs I see that need help. So far, I’ve helped about six dogs find their homes. Being in your home for good is the best feeling you can have, whether you are dog or human."
Tina Williams wins NILA Award
Tina Williams of the Arlington District won the National Independent Living Association (NILA) annual Youth of the Year award on September 30, 2004. The award was presented to her at the Growing Pains national independent living conference (sponsored by Daniel Memorial Institute and NILA) in San Antonio. Tina graciously thanked her foster parents and the PAL program for all the help they have given her. Tina has served as president of the Region 03 Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Teen Council and was on the statewide PAL Youth Leadership Committee.
Tina was also selected in the summer of 2004 to attend the Second National Youth Summit in Washington, D.C., and was nominated for the Kids to Kids National Service Award through the Child Welfare League of America.
Tina is a May 2004 honors graduate of North Crowley High School in Fort Worth. She participates actively in her church youth group and volunteers regularly to work with children in the church day care center. Tina has demonstrated her passion for helping young people in foster care; and this along with her energy, responsibility, and positive attitude in advancing PAL and other initiatives has made her a strong role model for foster youth.
Currently a freshman at Texas A&M University at Commerce majoring in Elementary Education, Tina maintains the support system built around her foster parents and Lena Pope Home, Inc. She attained a high level of savings from her part-time job in day care, and received an automobile from Lena Pope Home. Clearly, by her life, actions, and attitudes Tina proves that foster youth can move confidently into adult, independent life. She is highly deserving of the NILA Youth of the Year Award, and CPS is very proud to applaud and encourage her accomplishments.
- story submitted by David Robinson, CPS Policy Writer
PAL Olympian Darold Williamson
Darold Williamson, 21, of San Antonio, won an Olympic gold medal as a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the Athens Olympics. Darold competed as a member of the mens Track and Field team, running in the 4X400 m relay event. The team finished in first place, winning the gold.
Darold is a Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) alumnus, an Education and Training Voucher (ETV) scholarship recipient and a 2001 graduate of Holmes High School in San Antonio. While in CPS care, Mark Feichtinger was his Permanent Managing Conservatorship worker, and Nadine Terry was Darolds PAL worker. These and other caregivers recognized Darolds talents early, supporting him in lettering in football his junior and senior years in high school and cheering him on to win the 2001 200m and 400m events in the Texas state high school track and field championships.
The 62, 170-pound athlete continued his winning ways at Baylor University, where he is an undergraduate. So far, Darold has won the 2002, 2003, and 2004 Big 12 championship in the 400m run. In 2002, he also won the Big 12 championship in the indoor 400m run and the indoor and outdoor 4X400m relay events. This year, the Baylor team with Williamson claimed the Big 12 outdoor 4X400m relay championship.
Clearly, many more successes lie ahead of Darold Williamson, and his new Olympic gold medal is only one milestone of many that he may reach in his athletic career. Already he has entered the circle of celebrity athletes: five-time Olympic gold medallist Michael Johnson, a Baylor alumnus, visits with Darold and his teammates on Johnsons frequent trips to the Waco campus. We here at CPS can look on and cheer Darold and applaud those CPS staff members, such as Mark Feichtinger and Nadine Terry, who nurtured Darold and pointed him toward his winning ways.
We also owe Darold a thank-you for becoming such an inspiration to his peers. Speakers at Teen Conferences and Foster Alumni Association meetings around the state frequently talk about success and achievement in adult life. Now they can add winning Olympic gold medals to their list of concrete examples of foster youth accomplishments. We congratulate Darold Williamson, one to watch now and in the future.
C. Ed Davis PAL Scholarship
Porsche Harris was selected as the first recipient of the C. Ed Davis PAL Scholarship and received her first check at the DFPS Board meeting on August 27, 2003.
This scholarship was established by Catherine Mosbacher to provide assistance with college expenses to students formerly in foster care who plan to enter the field of law. The scholarship is named in honor of C. Ed Davis, who has served as DFPS Deputy Director for Legal Services since 1996.
Ms. Harris, from Region 08 in the South Texas District, entered foster care in 1998 and graduated from Clark High School in San Antonio in May of 2001. She was an active participant in the Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) Program. After attending the University of Houston for one year, Ms. Harris transferred to the University of Texas at San Antonio in January of 2003. She is currently a sophomore pursuing a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice.
Ms. Harris has a positive attitude and numerous accomplishments. Among these was her selection in 2002 as a recipient of the Orphan Foundation of America Scholarship. She is a positive role model and youth advocate, and believes that a law degree will help her to assist youth in foster care. Ms. Harris plans to attend law school at Emory University, the University of Texas at Austin, or the University of Houston.
Ms. Harris has overcome many obstacles in her life. She was in a serious car accident last year that caused traumatic brain injury and paralysis on the right side. Five months of intense physical, cognitive, and speech therapy were necessary to help her regain physical and mental functioning. The use of a laptop computer has been a lifesaver to her as she pursues her education. She feels the experience of foster care has taught her that she can overcome obstacles, and not give up. Ms. Harris is employed as a youth specialist by Baptist Family and Child Services where she advocates for the rights of youth in foster care. She is also a speaker for Youth Advocates in Action of Casey Family Programs.