Thank you to Jackie Davis, former foster youth and current college student at the University of North Texas, for sharing his story with us at the 2014 National CASA Conference and in this guest blog post.
I’d like to share with you a little of how CASA’s powerful commitment to children has influenced my life.
At the tender age of two my parents’ rights were terminated due to neglect and drug abuse. I, along with four of my siblings, were removed from our home, separated, and placed in foster homes. My siblings were adopted, and I rotated through six homes before being adopted at five years old. After about a year, the adoption broke down due to abuse and the family’s refusal to continue caring and providing for me. I was placed back into foster care, and there I suffered at the hands of neglectful and abusive foster parents. In care, I resided with families that beat me violently, made me sleep in bathtubs, locked me in closets for punishment, and abused me in other malicious ways.
I was placed on high doses of medication for anxiety and severe depression. I was heavily medicated to modify my disruptive behavior and to suppress the true emotions that came with my trauma.
During my childhood, the trending theme was that I was a “bad” child and one who was “undeserving.” As those around wrote me off, my attitude became apathetic. I was enrolled in special education classes and was considered by some to have a mental disability. I became a belligerent and aggressive child—violent toward others, uncooperative, and at times, suicidal. But all along, my heart was in distress—feeling love and those meant to protect me had forsaken me. I gave up on myself and fell into an abyss of despair.
It became evident, to some, that Jackie Joe Lee would not amount to anything. In fact, a psychologist once told me I’d be on drugs, in prison or dead by the time I was 21 years old.
Well guess what? I’m still here! I matter! I am the reason you should never give up on a child.
The courts intervened, and I was given a court-appointed special advocate, a woman I call Molly. I didn’t think much of Molly when we first met, because I was accustomed to people freely walking in and out of my life.
But over time, Molly proved herself to be consistent and present through the most difficult years of my life. When I became careless, she became fearless. When I had no fight left, she stood as a presence of hope, coaching me along the way. When people dismissed my greatest attributes, Molly was the moon at night that highlighted the beauties of my soul. She made my existence known to the court by making suggestions and recommendations on my behalf. Ultimately, she was a warrior who voluntarily decided to fight alongside me, all for the sake of providing me a hopeful future.
Over the years, I have learned to lift my shoulders. I have learned to stand up within myself. I have learned that I am able to be of service to others. I have not allowed the trauma from my past to withhold my kind spirit. I have allowed my story to produce hope and encouragement for others. I am passing along Molly’s legacy to me. I now work with children in foster care to restore a hope that is often trampled by chaos.
Today I am leader and president of a student organization at the University of North Texas called PUSH, an acronym for Persevere UNTil Success Happens, that supports and encourages foster care alumni and youth still in the system to seek out education. I encourage others to advocate for children in the proper way. I am now a voice that echoes across the hearts of many to bring about awareness. And perhaps I am here today because my CASA volunteer, Molly, taught me not only that fierce advocacy is effective, but that through commitment and dedication the prospects of success can be owned by every child in foster care.
I encourage you to continue demonstrating courage in its purest form, by standing up and advocating for children. And I thank everyone who is dedicated to the cause of saving children like me.