Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cannon Hopey shares his experience in foster care

Child welfare forum was a reminder to help kids.
Community Press, Florence, KY, Jan. 8, 2007.

The Marcus Fiesel story struck deep in the conscience of the community last summer - initially inspiring some to search a park for clues, but eventually leaving most just searching for answers.
Months later there are still questions to be asked, not only about Feisel, but about the foster care system as a whole.

Prosecuting attorneys, judges, children's service agency representatives and members of the foster care system met with members of Cincinnati media outlets Jan. 5 to offer straight talk and facts about child welfare in response to the many media requests they've received since the onset of the Feisel case.

"We can gnash our teeth all we want about what happened to Marcus Feisel and try to lay blame and point fingers," said Rachel Hutzel, Warren County prosecutor. "But, we'd have to get back to protecting children."

Hutzel, along with others, laid out procedures they follow every day working with children from investigations, to possibly removal from home, to the foster care system and, with hope, an end in a stable, loving environment.

And while journalists, editors and producers took notes on the rules, standards, timelines and so on, there was also a message that could be left off the fact sheet, but perhaps more appropriately etched in our memories, "It's the community's responsibility to protect children," Hutzel said.

The neighbors, teachers, families and friends can keep an eye on children they come in contact with, the legislators can put a priority on funding children's programs and, yes, even media employees can play their part by getting the most accurate information out about services for children.

Fortunately for all of us, there are adults who give more of themselves and their time to helping children than others.

Pat McCollum spoke during the media forum. She has been a foster parent in Hamilton County since 1992. In that time she has fostered 52 children and has adopted two boys who are now 16 years old.

"Our job is 24-7," she said. "We never stop."

Beyond her foster care responsibilities, McCollum has taken it upon herself to help provide pre-service training to those entering the foster care system, mentors parents who have been through training and is the president of the Southwest Ohio Family Care Affiliate.

Cannon Hopey, 20, a former foster child, also spoke at the forum about his experience being taken from his home when he was nine.

Hopey went through three foster homes before finding the family that would be with him up to today when he is living on his own with two jobs and attending Cincinnati State.

I'm by no means advocating that we all run out to become foster parents. I, myself, couldn't imagine space enough in my one-bedroom apartment for a plant to grow and thrive, much less a child.

Rather I just ask that we remember there are simple ways to be a part of the proverbial "village" that it takes to raise the children in each community.

For some it might be giving their time tutoring, coaching or teaching Sunday School. For others it might be dropping off a child-sized coat to charity to keep one kid in the community warm.
If nothing else, just be the kind of adult that a child can trust, as it seems that each day there are more and more they can't.

"I needed to find someone I could trust and someone who trusted me," Hopey said.


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