By Jericka Duncan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — May marks National Foster Care Awareness Month, and the Philadelphia Department of Human Services has launched a campaign to target people interested in fostering older youth.
According to DHS, 34% of the 13,000 children in Pennsylvania who are in foster care are between 14 and 17 years old. Eyewitness News talked to one young woman who is hoping to find a permanent home one day.
Tondalaya Goodman, of Feltonville, is taking it one step at a time.
For most of her life, 18-year-old Tondalaya has been in the foster care system.
As she enters adulthood, she says she longs for the love of a stable family, a place she can call home.
“If you’re not loved, you’re sad all the time because you’re like, ‘it’s just me,’” said Goodman. “’Nobody cares about me. I’m worthless’…Me feeling loved is the one thing that keeps me going.”
Someone who says they understand that feeling is Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services Commissioner, Anne Marie Ambrose.
“The outcomes for children who age out of foster care are horrific,” said Ambrose. “Many times, they age out into homelessness, they age out into drug and alcohol addiction, they age out into mental illness, they age out into prison.”
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According to a 2012 annual report by DHS, about 4,100 children in the city are in the child welfare system. Half of them, said the commissioner, are between 13 and 21.
That’s part of the reason why DHS officials say they are actively recruiting parents willing to foster older youth.
“I’m 50 years old, and I still rely on my parents all the time for guidance and support and advice, and these kids need it even more,” Ambrose expressed.
Tondalaya has been with a new family for one week. In August, she leaves to attend Lincoln University. She says she wants to major in communications and give back to people like herself.
“Five years from now, I expect to be on the news, on the radio, doing everything I have to do to motivate young children,” said Tondalaya.
For more info on fostering, visit: www.phila.gov/DHS//index.html