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What is it like to be raised by the foster care system? Demetrius Johnson describes it as a rollercoaster. Child Protective Services took him from his mom as an infant due to drug abuse and neglect. By the time he was in kindergarten he had lived in three foster homes.
Demetrius thought he had found his “forever mom” when he was adopted at 6 by Mrs. Johnson. But life was not peaceful at the Johnson home. Seven years later she gave Demetrius back to the system in what’s called a broken adoption. Impossibly, Demetrius’ childhood got harder. He moved constantly—living in 25 foster homes and attending four high schools—and lost trust in authority.
Demetrius seemed destined to become another sad statistic. Except he didn’t. Almost miraculously, caring adults began to take notice of Demetrius and recognize his potential. His attorney at Lawyers For Children, Laura Daley, helped him find a safe, stable home and transfer to a good high school. He graduated with a Regent’s Diploma and 3.6 GPA.
Today, Demetrius is living with a loving and supportive foster family and will soon be legally adopted by another couple. He is studying for his Associate’s Degree at St. John’s University and plans to transfer to NYU next fall to study law. As a Youth Ambassador for Lawyers for Children, Demetrius relays his experiences in the foster care system and with the miracle workers at Lawyers For Children.
For thirty years, Lawyers For Children has represented more than 30,000 New York City children and youth living in foster care. Kids in the foster care system face tough obstacles and uncertain outcomes: higher rates of homelessness, weaker academic performance and employment opportunities, and significant mental health challenges. They are more than twice as likely to drop out of high school, and only about four percent actually earn a college degree. Lawyers For Children changes these odds. Each young person is provided with a team: an experienced attorney, a social worker and a youth advocate. This trio secures a wide array of services for these young adults—including supportive housing, access to public benenefits (food stamps, Medicaid, public assistance) and mental health counseling.