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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.

This is a guest editorial from our statewide partners Abiding Love Adoptions in celebration of National Adoption Month. For more information, contact Vicki Colls and Carrie Murray Nellis.

Delving into one’s family tree is a favorite pastime for all peoples throughout the world! Ancestry.com has sold over 15 million kits.  Many older adoptees, placed for adoption during the closed adoption era, are using Ancestry.com to locate birth parents and birth families with great success. Most everyone…..E V E R Y O N E wants to know more about their roots! Therefore, it begs the question, why does closed or semi-open adoption still have a seat at the table?

At Abiding Love, we believe wholeheartedly in the concept of One Big Family (#onebigfamily) created through Open Adoption. Research shows the devasting effects in which closed and semi-open adoptions (a tiny step above closed) have on Adoptees and Birth Parents. At Abiding Love, 98% of our adoptions are wide open, sharing names, phone numbers, emails, and visits. The other 2% are different because it was the desire of the Birth Mother at the time, with the hope she will change her mind to have an Open Adoption in the future, and the adoptive parents are ready when she does.

Abiding Love walks with an Expectant Mother through her pregnancy, delivery, and post-adoption (hands-on; face to face interaction). We come to the Expectant Mother; she does not have to worry about coming to us. Once a woman comes into our lives, she becomes a member of the Abiding Love Family to always be treasured and loved—1 month, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years down the road—Never Alone, Never Forgotten, Always Loved. Abiding Love’s advocates stand in the gap for the expectant mother, ensuring she knows her rights, understands the legal paperwork, and signs a legally enforceable open adoption agreement. The legally binding open adoption agreement is the one listed in Georgia’s Adoption Code and ensures the original open adoption the birth mother agrees to is enforced. 

One of the many things that makes Abiding Love different, is that we have NO WAIT LIST.  For us, we believe that in order for us to truly be advocating for an Expectant Parent, we cannot have a list of Prospective Adoptive Parents waiting in the wings to adopt her child.  Likewise, Prospective Adoptive Parents should not be limited to one agency to work with.  While we provide Home Study services, after we complete the Home Study we encourage Prospective Adoptive Parents to work with Adoption Consultants.    

Our passion, our mission is to love women through one of the most challenging times of their lives. Adoption is not for everyone, and there are times where the women we work with choose to parent. In these situations, we are called to be their cheerleaders.  There are other times that adoption is the best option and plan for the Mother and her child, and Abiding Love is there to advocate for her through it all. Abiding Love is known for being present post-adoption through support groups and professional counseling. Again, once a member of Abiding Love’s family, always a member. 

Want to learn more, or are you an expectant mother needing help? Visit our website at www.abidingloveadopt.com, call or text 1-800-277-0748; or call Vicki at 912-660-8227.

My name is Brett Lempe, and I am pro-life. I am also an artist based in Centennial, Colorado. Recently I had a venue owner cancel an art show that we had been planning for months because of my beliefs around abortion. Not because the artwork that I was planning on displaying or the show itself was explicitly pro-life, but because I am a pro-life person. I am not as disappointed because I lost the show, I’m heartbroken because of the reason that it was lost. I have been asked to write an article explaining the situation and share some thoughts on it.

About 6 months ago, I saw a post my friend and venue owner had created on Facebook calling for artists to apply to be a part of month-long solo art shows that this venue would be hosting for local Denver artists. Having had a previous personal connection with the owner, and also desiring to get to display my work whenever I can, I immediately jumped on the opportunity.

We had an appointment and agreed on a the details of the show. He encouraged me to be as creative as possible, and I then began to work on the show almost immediately. A month and a half before the show was set to be on display, I receive the following text:

“Hey there, I wanted to start by saying I love you and I know you have been working hard on cranking out the paintings. I also wanted to say I respect your spiritual [path]

However we won’t be affiliated at all with a pro life message it is fundamentally against our beliefs and the goals of our community. That in mind we have to cancel the pending art show and opening.”

I was shocked, disappointed, yet proud all at the same time. I’m assuming he saw a few pro-life posts on my social media that then motivated him to cancel.

It is a shame that he never stopped to ask why I believe the way I do about the sanctity of life, or even try to have a dialogue. But, for the record, here is why I am pro-life:

I am pro-life because human life begins at conception. Biology is clear that, at conception, a unique organism comes into existence. Since this new life possesses human DNA and is the offspring of human parents, it can only legitimately be described as human.

Taking this life away, because the life is inconvenient to the parent(s), is wrong.

I’m not “forcing people to be pregnant” because I’m not forcing people to have sex.

And no, I’m not out on some crazy power trip attempting to control women. Any woman in my life would agree to that. I’m a gentleman. That’s why I believe we should protect vulnerable women and innocent children targeted by the abortion industry.

And no, it. is. not. your. body. Unless you want to claim that your body has two sets of DNA, two heads, two hearts, and two possibly different sets of reproductive organs. Which, you can go ahead and do that, but I still think taking human life away by force is wrong. Also, just because this life can only currently live inside your womb, doesn’t mean you should have the right to kill them.

Taking a human life away is, by definition, murder.

So because this is what I believe, the art show I had been planning for months has been cancelled.

If we take a brief glance at human history, we will witness many figures who were persecuted for standing for truth and love. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and Jesus Christ, to name a few. I’m not saying that the show getting cancelled was comparable to the discrimination that these figures faced. But my point is that these are great examples of how, when we stand for goodness and for life, we will suffer, we will be hurt in various ways, and we will be discriminated against. But that’s okay.

I am much more willing to suffer from persecution for standing for truth and love than to suffer from living a life based on lies for the sake of convenience. Having had this experience, I know now more that ever that, by standing to support life, I do not stand alone. I am extremely grateful for the support that I have gotten in response to this event, and now an explicitly pro-life art show based in Denver is already in the works!

-Brett

To follow Brett, support his art, and get more information about the pro-life art show coming to the Denver area, visit him on Facebook or at www.brettlempe.com.