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Monthly Archives: March 2020

There I sat Monday morning in Room 406 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building, shell-shocked and genuinely horrified at the brazen display of petty childishness that I had just witnessed. 

Representative Ed Setzler’s HB 958, “The Maternity Supportive Housing Act”, was heard in the House Juvenile Justice Committee earlier this week. As is the case with every proposed bill, HB 958 has the potential to become State Law if it makes it through the legislative process. (If you’re not familiar with how a bill becomes a law, SchoolHouse Rock has a very catchy and informative song that I’d highly recommend). 

Representative Setzler had not even begun to present the bill when 5 of the committee members simply left the room. 

They just got up and LEFT

An exodus of adult-sized toddlers fleeing from their responsibilities – their only intent was to leave so few committee members that a vote could not be held, thereby preventing the bill from making it out of the committee before Crossover Day. Let there be no doubt, this was a concerted and intentional effort to a) send a huge ‘F—You’ to Representative Setzler and b) kill this bill where it stood. 


Well because they don’t like him, that’s why. Not because they had any concerns about how the bill would impact their district. Nope. They just don’t like the Representative sponsoring the bill, so they attempted to sabotage the entire process. 

This sort of behavior is disheartening and discouraging in its own right; but it is especially heartbreaking when good bills are caught as collateral damage in a war that has nothing to do with their substance. 

This particular bill seeks to provide more avenues for non-profit organizations to provide homes for pregnant women and new mothers who otherwise would have nowhere else to go. Not only would this bill allow for more options for these women, it would also extend the amount of time a woman and her newborn are able to stay in that home. The current guidelines state that a woman has just 8 weeks after giving birth to figure something out before she is essentially tossed out; HB 958 extends that time to 18 months – which gives the new mother time to recover, find/return to a job, learn essential skills for leading a family and running a household, and the support she needs while adjusting to motherhood. 

While there are maternity homes in Georgia, the demand is FAR greater than the supply. Women are being turned away, hopeless with nowhere to go, far too often for a state that just last year passed The Heartbeat Bill. In order to actually build a culture of Life – one where women don’t feel coerced into choosing abortion – we have to commit to helping women when they do choose life. Empowering them to choose life and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to succeed and thrive after doing so. 

I was turned away by a maternity home when I was 15 and pregnant. It was already my last option or hope for a roof over my head at all, and being told “no, sorry, we can’t take you.” was a heavy blow. I spent the next several months in a whirlwind of homelessness, sleeping on friends/family member’s couches, stealing money and food out of necessity, selling things that no person should be able to purchase. 

When those 5 committee members got up and walked out of that committee room, they walked out on girls just like me.

Our elected officials must remember and consider that the bills they see everyday aren’t just words on a page and that voting on future law is not just another day at work. Real people with real struggles could be made or broken by bills like these, and they deserve to be fairly considered. This particular bill affects women who are or will be in the same shoes I once wore, and they deserve to be put before political games.  

Regardless of the topic, substance, or sponsor of ANY proposed bill – every single representative assigned to the committee hearing it owes a DUTY to the people of his/her district to at least READ and HEAR that bill and to make every good faith effort in deciding whether the best interests of their district would be well-served or harmed by it, and then cast votes accordingly. 

To Representatives Shelly Hutchinson, Erica Thomas, Dar’Shun Kendrick, and Pam Dickenson – on behalf of Georgia voters, I have only this to say: 

You were elected to represent the people of your district. You made a promise to serve the people who voted for you and to set aside your personal feelings about your ‘enemies’ across the aisle. You were called to reach across that aisle, even and especially when you don’t want to, in your efforts to represent and protect the people who trusted you enough to send you as their missive to our State Capitol. 

Your behavior Monday was so far beneath your profession, it is embarrassing. 

You should be ashamed of yourselves

Your constituents don’t care who proposes a bill. They care how it affects them. And so should you. 

Don’t lose sight of why you started because of political games. Don’t let the price tag of petty politics be the very people you swore to represent. 

Most people use Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat or a host of other social media to show the best of what’s going on in their lives. The truth is, life isn’t always pretty. And for children who grow up in homes where they are neglected, abused, or their parents are substance abusers, life is a game of survival.

With Gov. Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan pledging this year to make foster kids and those who age out of the system a top priority for the state of Georgia, I thought it was about time to tell the story of what it is like for some of us who had to be removed from our parents’ care and placed in foster homes.

I am now a 34-year-old adult, but I still have many scars because of parents who just weren’t capable of leaving their demons behind and putting their children first. I was one of those foster kids.

Like many foster children, my biological parents got married too young, divorced and moved on. When I was 7 years old, I was adopted. That’s where the terror began.

I was never really accepted by this family, which wanted to have their own children. I was demoralized, humiliated, denied food, required to sleep in a cold garage, not given proper clothing, verbally abused and severely beaten. I was made to quit school at age 14 under false premises of changing schools so teachers and counselors would stop asking questions about why I was so thin and what was happening to me at home.

When I was 16, I was taken into state custody, but unfortunately was also abused by one of my foster parents – a member of my extended family. By the time I left the foster care system, I found my birth mother and stayed with her until I earned a high school diploma at an alternative school when I was 19.

I eventually moved to Athens and took some online courses before a series of jobs led to me Atlanta, where I now work for a wonderful company in the financial services industry.

Growing up in a highly dysfunctional home is nothing I would wish on anyone. In 2019, there were 13,900 kids in foster care in Georgia. I am one of the rare foster kids who has not wound up in poverty or turned to crime or drugs.

Seventy-one percent of girls become pregnant in the first year that they age out of the foster care system.

Less than 11 percent who age out of the system earn that high school diploma or GED. I was determined to get mine. I wanted to make something of my life after being told I was worthless for years.

Having a mentor who could have pointed me in the right direction would have helped. So many of us former foster kids truly are searching and need someone with wisdom. Thankfully, I found a solid church family that gave me love and support. Too often foster kids don’t have support, and they turn to drugs, prostitution or crime.

We also need advice on how to balance a checkbook, create a budget, do the laundry, grocery shop – all the life skills young people take for granted. Job training, including career counseling, would be a tremendous boost when so many of us are insecure, don’t know what job to pursue, or how to make a living.

As state lawmakers meet this winter, they are considering a host of ideas to help foster kids and foster families, including incentives for adoption, speeding up their cases in court and creating harsh criminal penalties for sexual abuse of foster kids. As a child who aged out of the system, I can tell you it would also be wonderful if the state encouraged recruiting mentors for former foster kids. Additional educational options could certainly help those who never graduated or perform well in public schools and need special attention.

Foster kids have come from some of the most painful experiences you can imagine. We have emotional battle scars that last a lifetime. Anything we can do to prevent this cycle from repeating itself is not only an act of love and compassion but a worthy act of preserving our society.

Chelsea Magee is our Director of Foster Care and Adoption Advocacy, a former foster child, and lives in Cobb County.