When planning out the stories for this project, I immediately knew I wanted to interview someone who had experienced the foster care system. Finding someone currently in the system was going to be a tough get. Because of privacy requirements, getting approval from all the appropriate parties was going to be next to impossible, meaning I needed to look for someone who had aged out. The problem with that is it still isn’t easy.
As someone who struggles with organization, scheduling and conducting interviews is already a challenge. While the process of listening and learning is something I love, it is not always easy to get to that point. Combined with the fact that it isn’t always easy to find someone who wants to speak about painful experiences, finding someone who wanted to talk about their experiences was a challenge.
I caught a break after meeting with Felecia Carter, who is the county supervisor for Pulaski South DCFS. Towards the end of her interview, she mentioned she knew a young man named Andre who would be willing to speak about his time in the system. After a brief call, we had a time scheduled out to speak.
While initially prepared for a quick talk on the phone where I would run down my list of questions, my conversation with Andre lasted nearly an hour as he told me his life story, covering his cancer that blinded him at an early age as well as his stays in foster care, which first occurred when he was seven and continued until he aged out at 18.
As someone who has interacted with the foster care system for over a decade, I knew I was clueless to the plight of the many children who enter the system, so I expected to learn some things I did not know. What I did not expect was to be moved as I was. Hearing the story of Andre and his siblings was nothing short of inspiring.
As I have worked on Andre’s feature, I have struggled to capture what I found to be an extraordinary resiliency. While I feel it may be difficult to get it all, if I can encapsulate just a tad of that conversation, I will be headed in the right direction.