Tough start leads to hopeful future
After 10 years in foster care—that involved numerous homes, meetings, medications and court dates—life is looking up for Thomas Stone.
Separated from all but one of his siblings in foster care and with birth parents who have both passed away, Stone has learned to fend for himself. “No one pushed be to get good grades, to take advantage of services,” he said. “I was only allowed to see my mom once a month. For a while I shut down, went into my shell.”
But that started to change with the support of a foster parent, whom he was with from age 14-18 and still keeps in contact with today. “He changed my life,” said Stone. “He was the parent that I always wanted. He gave me attention, made sure I went to school, made sure I got good grades and took care of me like his own child. He gave me that unconditional love that kids—all kids—need.”
Staff at Connections to Independence (C2i), a service and advocacy organization, under contract with Hennepin County, to help foster youth make healthy transitions to adulthood, supported Stone as well.
“They helped me learn it was important to deal with my emotions,” he said. “They helped me go to school and apply for college.” When his mother passed away, they attended her services. That made a big impact on Stone, seeing that support. “It was rough,” he said. “I was at a low point. C2i helped me come out of that. It was hard to ask for help but they were there for me.”
The youngest of 11 siblings, Thomas, was the first in his family to graduate from high school, is living independently and plans to attend Rochester Community and Technical College beginning this fall.
But he will do it with little financial help and mounting debt. That is one area he believes government needs to do more for foster youth. “Give more financial help to foster kids to pursue their college dream,” he said. “We still need help beyond 18, beyond 21, especially to go to college.”
“A lot has happened in my family,” he said. “It’s been difficult. We’ve all been through tough times.”
In Rochester, he hopes to be close enough to family but make a fresh start for himself, go to school, take time to reflect and maybe play a little rugby, a sport he played in adolescence.
“I need to be strong, to keep going,” he said. “I finally got a second chance and I’m going to take advantage of that. I know I can take on anything now.”
In Minnesota, nearly 14,700 children are in out-of-home placement; almost 12,200 of them are in family foster care. For more information about foster care, see the department’s foster care fact sheet. For information about how to become a foster parent, visit the foster care page.