Taking A Leap Of Faith On A Refugee Foster Child (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Taking A Leap Of Faith On A Refugee Foster Child

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Faith and relationships and the meaning of family are also at the heart of our next story. Becoming a foster parent and welcoming a child you barely know into your family can be a big, big leap of faith. But some foster parents make an even greater leap, taking in traumatized children who are refugees from war torn regions. There are currently about 700 refugee foster kids across the United States. Many have come from camps for displaced people, have been scooped up by aid organizations and then placed in the US foster system.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:35
These children are living with families in cities from Phoenix, Az. to Fargo, North Dakota. They're also right here in Washington, D.C. Jacob Fenston brings us the story of one young woman who's still getting accustomed to life in the nation's capital.

MR. JACOB FENSTON

00:00:49
She landed here about a year ago.

CAROLINE

00:00:51
My name is Caroline. I'm 19 year old.

FENSTON

00:00:58
Caroline, who doesn't want to use her full name, is still learning English. Right now, she's still more comfortable speaking French.

CAROLINE

00:01:05
(Speaks foreign language).

FENSTON

00:01:09
She came from far away, she says, from the Congo.

CAROLINE

00:01:11
(Speaks foreign language)

FENSTON

00:01:13
She left there at age 12 because of the ongoing war, one of the deadliest conflicts in the world in recent years.

CAROLINE

00:01:19
(Speaks foreign language)

FENSTON

00:01:20
She spent two years traveling across Africa, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, finally arriving in Morocco, more than halfway across the continent of Africa.

CAROLINE

00:01:32
(Speaks foreign language)

FENSTON

00:01:34
"It's a long story," she says, and when I ask her about that period, she clenches her hands, and presses on her forehead. She doesn't want to think about those two years, or talk about them. In Morocco, she lived in a refugee camp for three years.

CAROLINE

00:01:49
(Speaks foreign language)

FENSTON

00:01:50
It was a nightmare for her, but when she found out she was coming to the United States, she was worried. The people in the refugee camp had become her support system.

CAROLINE

00:02:00
(Speaks foreign language)

FENSTON

00:02:04
"They were like family," she says, and she didn't want to leave them.

MS. ELAINE FARLEY

00:02:08
My name is Elaine Farley. I'm a foster parent with Lutheran Social Services.

FENSTON

00:02:12
Last year, Lutheran Social Services called up Farley and said they were looking for a home for a young woman, a refugee.

FARLEY

00:02:18
The foster child doesn't know anything about the foster mom, and the mom doesn't know anything about the foster child, no more than what the social worker tells you, or either what the child tells you. All I know is that she was from the Congo, coming out of Morocco and a refugee camp, and that's all I knew.

FENSTON

00:02:34
Farley's been a foster parent since 1994. She has one daughter by birth, and she's had 12 foster children over the years. But Farley says at first, she wasn't sure it would work to have someone from such a different background.

FARLEY

00:02:47
When they told me about Caroline, I said, well, can I meet her? I guess we kind of like gelled, I guess you might say. We talked, and she liked me and I liked her, I said, okay, this might work.

FENSTON

00:02:56
But that doesn't mean it's always easy.

FARLEY

00:02:58
And there is communication problem, but we're working it out. She tells me sometimes, when she understands me, she says, you know. And then when I don't understand, then I call the social worker, she talks for me, and she talks for her too. Rachel.

MS. RACHEL PIERRE

00:03:15
My name is Rachel Pierre. I am the program manager for the unaccompanied refugee minors at Lutheran Social Services.

FENSTON

00:03:21
There are currently seven kids in the program in D.C. Most are from Africa.

PIERRE

00:03:25
We've had children who've been trafficked, we have children who are dealing with emotional trauma, past sexual abuse, past physical abuse, and have children who've experienced all of the above.

FENSTON

00:03:35
That trauma can make it difficult for kids to trust anyone, even someone who's trying to help.

PIERRE

00:03:40
Often times unfortunately, we do have some placement disruptions because it becomes very difficult for the foster parent to continue to try to support and nurture a child who is really pushing them away, or who appears to be pushing them away.

CAROLINE

00:03:55
(Speaks foreign language)

FENSTON

00:04:00
Caroline says when she first got to the United States, she was afraid of meeting people she didn't know.

CAROLINE

00:04:04
(Speaks foreign language)

FENSTON

00:04:09
Afraid people would hurt her, like people hurt her in the past.

CAROLINE

00:04:12
(Speaks foreign language)

FARLEY

00:04:15
Whatever went on, if you notice when she talks about it, she come very tearful, so I don't, I don't go that way unless she wants to go that way. Now if she talks to me about it, fine, but she has not got to the point that she talks about what happened over into the Congo.

FENSTON

00:04:27
So Elaine Farley says she tries to stay focused on the present.

FARLEY

00:04:30
Here, here and now, in the United States.

FENSTON

00:04:33
And Caroline is doing well. Her English is getting better, she's figured out the Metro system, and she's got dreams for the future.

CAROLINE

00:04:40
By six months, I can finish my GED classes. When I finish, I'll go to college.

FENSTON

00:04:48
She wants to be a doctor or a nurse, because, she says, so many people have helped her, now she wants to help others. I'm Jacob Fenston.
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