Transcripts

The Challenges Of Aging Out

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We move now from one personal journey to another. Sam Queen is about to go to an entirely different place in life as he ages out of the foster care system. Such a transition would be challenging enough for any young person, but Sam has cerebral palsy and has spent his life confined to a wheelchair. Jessica Gould brings us his story.

MS. JESSICA GOULD

00:00:29
It's Sam Queen's 20th birthday and he's celebrating with the people he's come to consider family, his foster mother, Ma Betty, his social worker, his advocates and aides. Everyone is smiling as Sam slices into some sugary cinnamon cake.

MR. SAM QUEEN

00:00:46
Oh, man, I'm blushing now.

GOULD

00:00:48
But there's something bittersweet about this birthday, Sam's last before he ages out of the foster care system next year.

QUEEN

00:00:56
Being in foster care, I mean, you really have to teach yourself because you didn't have your birth parents around you to help you out.

GOULD

00:01:03
Sam would know. He's been in foster care for almost as long as he can remember.

QUEEN

00:01:08
My mother, she really didn't talk much. My father, I've never met or seen him before. They have a mental illness. It's called schizophrenia. I got taken away from them when I was five years old.

GOULD

00:01:23
Since then, he's lived in eight foster homes and he's weathered some difficult experiences.

QUEEN

00:01:30
When I was nine years old, I got beaten by my foster mother, when I used to live in Baltimore. And they had taken me out of her home when I was -- I was four months from adoption when that happened.

GOULD

00:01:42
But he says most of his homes have been happy ones. He's especially loved living with Ma Betty and her two small children, on a quiet street in Cheltenham, Md.

QUEEN

00:01:52
She's done a lot for me. I mean, as you can see, she's built my ramp, built my bathroom, my bedroom with a floor, you know, putting the tiles down.

GOULD

00:02:04
You see, being in foster care isn't the only challenge Sam faces. He was born with cerebral palsy. He can't move his legs and has only limited use of his arms and hands. Sam gets around with the help of a motorized wheelchair. And now that he's graduated from high school, he spends most of his days commuting between the bedroom, kitchen and porch.

QUEEN

00:02:26
See, here's our side, here's the sidewalk and neighbors. I say hi to them every once in a while.

GOULD

00:02:33
Of course, when Sam does leave the house, he uses Metro Access, the transit service for people with disabilities. But he says waiting for the bus takes a while and it costs money each way. So when his foster family goes to the mall, movies or a restaurant, he usually stays home.

QUEEN

00:02:49
You know, the kids did a whole lot. You know, they go out with Ma Betty and they'll just look at my room, like, why can't Sammy go out?

GOULD

00:02:56
Meanwhile, Sam says he's worried about what will happen next year when he moves to an apartment and starts classes at Prince George's Community College.

QUEEN

00:03:05
What I'm looking for is to get me a wheelchair van so that way I can start going places, you know, going to the mall, going to, you know, Wal-Mart or even the movies. With me going to PG in the fall, I'm going to have to, you know, rely on them a lot.

GOULD

00:03:23
Sam's court appointed advocate, Liza Bush, says his situation underscores the difficulties many kids with disabilities face as they age out of the foster care system.

MS. LIZA BUSH

00:03:33
All over the country, kids turn 21 and everything goes away, all of the assistance that they've had. And so Sam is a great example of someone who has even more things to get in place. It's not just finding an apartment, but we have to find an apartment that suits his needs. And then transportation is the main piece we're thinking about now to get to college, to get to the doctor, to get everywhere he needs to be is a little bit more difficult.

GOULD

00:04:01
Bush and a team of advocates are working with Sam to help him make the transition. But there are limits to what they can provide so earlier this spring, the New Jersey-based charity One Simple Wish started a campaign to help Sam buy a wheelchair accessible van for his nurse to drive. With only a few hundred dollars raised toward a $35,000 goal, he has a long way to go, but he isn't about to give up.

QUEEN

00:04:26
If I'm able to get this car, I mean, it would be a big break for me.

GOULD

00:04:29
And he's got other plans. After he graduates, Sam wants to be a sports broadcaster or maybe a DJ. Then, he says, he hopes to share his success with someone he loves.

QUEEN

00:04:40
Getting married one day, I know it's going to be guys out there that's going to look at me funny because my wife is not handicap and I am, but I haven't let that, you know, stop me. I've continued on. I haven't let that stop me at all.

GOULD

00:04:53
For Sam, getting around can be hard, but even so, he says he's going places.

GOULD

00:05:04
I'm Jessica Gould.

SHEIR

00:05:13
To learn more about Sam's story and to watch a video about his wish, head to our website, metroconnection.org. After the break, who's going to vaccinate your wild horses? How about this guy?

MR. JAY KIRKPATRICK

00:05:27
We're down to really one really spooky horse so we have to find her. Then once you find her, the hardest part of all comes and that's getting within shooting distance.

SHEIR

00:05:36
That and more coming your way on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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