NEWARK (KCBS) – The number of children in foster care in California has been cut in half over the last decade. However, there are still far more kids who need a home than there are people willing to take them. Whether a child lands in the right environment is often just the luck of the draw, but one home is Newark is doing it’s best to improve the odds.

Computer consultant and empty nester Carol Graham enlarged her Newark home so that she’d have room to foster four teenagers.

“A lot of times they’re sexually abuse, or other times the parents are in jail,” said Graham. “We even had one kid that was in my placement because his mother was a hoarder and the home was deemed unsafe.”

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Sixteen year old Edward can’t even keep track of how many foster and group homes he’s been sent to since he was a little boy.

“My mom was on very, very bad drugs and she asked my great aunt if she would mind keeping me for two weeks, and that ended up being 14 years,” said Edward.

Now he shares Graham’s home with three teenage girls, including Megan, who came here a year ago from Fremont, where she was sexually abused by her mother and father.

“I lived with the abuse for a couple of years now and it just tore me apart one day and I said ‘I’ve got to get out of here,'” said Megan. “I couldn’t live like that anymore, because everything that I thought was right wasn’t.”

Megan said that although it’s a better situation, living under Graham’s care isn’t always easy.

“Overall I do like living with her, it’s just that sometimes we clash,” said Megan.

Graham admits that she does have some pretty strict rules, for example the children aren’t allowed to eat anywhere but the kitchen.

Sixteen-year-old Sierra has only been in Graham’s house a few months.

“It is one big roller coaster because you do have your arguments, and you have your mother who is always, always up your butt,” said Sierra.

Complete Coverage: Doug Sovern’s Children Left Behind Series

However, another 16-year-old, Tessa, said that Graham’s home is better than most.

“I think it’s alright, but how good can foster care really get?” she said.

Abused as a child, Tessa’s been in foster or adoptive homes since she was six months old. Tessa says Graham is much better than her last foster mom.

“It went to the point where she put a lock on the fridge so that we couldn’t eat anything,” said Tessa, who said that she loves her new foster sisters, Megan and Sierra.

Graham is paid up to $900 a month to take care of each child, but for her, it’s not the money that’s the best reward.

“When you hear your own words come back at you,” said Graham. “When you hear your own teachings coming out of their mouths as if it were their ideas – something that they own,” said Graham.

Not to mention the satisfaction of helping girls like Megan, escape abuse.

“I’m a whole different person now,” said Megan. “I’m happier.”

Unfortunately, 40 percent of foster kids don’t find happy homes, instead they land on the street, as we’ll find out in part four of our report


(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

  1. travelingmad says:

    Thank you Ms. Graham!! I am a former social worker for Child Protective Services and cannot stress enough the importance of dedicated and honest foster parents. We need more people like her.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

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