Editor's Letter: Shining a Light on Foster CareNov 12, 2020 10:42AM ● By Daisy Hutzell Rodman
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
There has been a lot of noise in my normally quiet house lately. My oldest feels threatened and yells every few minutes, my middle is the boss and wants to make sure this is known, and my youngest just wants to play.
I’m not writing about children. My husband recently agreed that we would foster the neighbor’s cat while she is moved to another apartment temporarily, and it has not been terrible, but there has been a lot of hissing and growling. We are only talking about cats, pampered indoor cats whose lives have been turned temporarily upside down.
I can not imaging what it feels like to be a youngster who has been moved into foster care. The uncertainty, the fear, the newness of it all. Yet, nearly as many young people in the United States live in foster care as live in Omaha proper. The Department of Health and Human Services said that close to 424,000 children and youth in the U.S. were in foster care in 2019. That number is 44,000 less than the Census Bureau reported in 2018 as being the number of people who live in Omaha (468,000). That means 424,000 children in the United States live without their parents, often in the home of a kind stranger who has offered to house children and teenagers, in an arrangement that ends abruptly when they turn 19.
What happens then? In some cases, these young people turn out OK—they obtain jobs, attend college, find housing, and live a normal life. In other cases, the story turns grim. Many adolescents leave the foster care system at age 19 without a formal support system, or knowledge of how to open a bank account, or even how to cook.
November is National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, and it is National Runaway Prevention Month. Many who were in former foster care end up homeless or running away, one reason why we chose to focus on aging out of foster care this month. In our feature well, Omaha Magazine spoke with two organizations that work with juveniles who have aged out of foster care: Youth Emergency Services and Project Everlast. We spoke with a young woman who has aged out of the system and is living in an apartment after having spent time in a women’s shelter.
In another feature, Beth Sharma Gregory tells the story of how she started fostering by helping one teenager in need. That one youngster turned into a houseful of people in need, and by the time she moved to Nebraska, she brought with her seven children—several of whom were fosters. This developed into a nonprofit in 2019 called Fostering by Heart.
The November/December edition is normally a large one for the giving calendar, but this year has proven tough for charitable events and organizations. Many large, notable events, including the November Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Gala and the Dec. 27 Omaha Symphony Debutante Ball, have canceled for 2020. The need for charity and charitable giving, however, continues. One program that can help many others is the Angel Tree. This program is a part of Prison Fellowship, connecting prisoners with their loved ones. Omaha Magazine brings readers the story of one person who worked with this organization to give her children Christmas gifts from their incarcerated grandfather.
At a meeting over a year ago, someone brought up the idea of a story on a young woman who schedules her work around her travels. I smiled when I heard this idea, because I happen to know her. Laura Lindenstein is a barber and stylist at Energi Salon in the Old Market. My husband and I have been going to her for haircuts for years. She’s an incredible professional, and always makes sure we are taken care of, but it seems every time we talk to her, she has gone to another fabulous place around the world—from Viet Nam to Panama. How and why she has this passion for travel is the subject of our adventure article this month.
It is the season for eating rich foods, drinking special drinks, and making merry. One guilty pleasure I indulge in once per holiday season is a box of those cheap cordial cherries that can be found on the grocery shelves. Yes, they are cheap, but I happen to love cordial cherries, so if I bought more than one box, I would eat more than one box. Omaha also has a local place to buy hand-crafted chocolate-covered maraschino cherries—The Cordial Cherry. In fact, the chocolate lover on one’s gift-giving list would appreciate any of the places in our Obviously Omaha this month, which is all about local chocolates.
In our dining section, we covered Omaha Wine Co., which is known nationally as being a superb place to purchase Napa wines, many that are not found elsewhere in the area.
Omaha has seen its share of cultural upheaval this year, and one person who understands this is Marcey Yates of the Cultxr House. The X in the name, to Yates, is a revolutionary symbol. It’s an idea that has been used by others. Omaha-born Malcolm Little wrote in his autobiography that he was encouraged to drop his last name, and replace it with the letter X, which symbolized that his true African name had been lost in slavery. What Yates and others have done at Cultxr House to bring African American culture to the forefront is one of our Arts & Culture articles. We also have A+C articles on our friend XiXi Yang, who came to Omaha several years ago with her now-fiance and has since become a mover and shaker in California with her company XYZ Media; musical group FunkTrek; and graphic artist Ilaamen Pelshaw.
As this is the last magazine of 2020, I’d also like to say happy holidays from the Omaha Magazine family. Here’s to a joyful, successful 2021.
* Note: The hotel edition of Omaha Magazine has a different cover and does not include all of the editorial content included in the magazine’s full city edition. For more information on our city edition, visit OmahaMagazine.com.
This letter first appeared in the November/December 2020 issue of Omaha Magazine.