I Am the Reason You Should Never Give Up on a Child

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 Am the Reason You Should Never Give Up on a Child

My CASA volunteer was a warrior who decided to fight alongside me, all for the sake of providing me a hopeful future.

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.

This entry was posted in Child Advocacy, Foster Care, General, Guest Blogger, Opinion, Youth. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to I Am the Reason You Should Never Give Up on a Child

  1. Pingback: CASA – Providing a World Of Support To Children That Need It Most | CrayonCash

  2. Pingback: DC127 | Foster care in the news: CASA edition

  3. Felafel Faery says:

    You have such an infectious smile and such smiley eyes! And a winning attitude. Please just keep doing what you are doing, and writing to share it with us. Thank you and god bless. :) (:

  4. Karin Smith says:

    Just wanted to leave a comment in regards to the Jackie Davis story. I am sorry you suffered abuse by so many caregivers, especially being you’d already been traumatized by your parents, removed from your home, and separated from your siblings. It is wonderful to read how Molly stepped in as a well trained CASA, and not only did her job, but had a major influence on Jackie;s life. I was wondering is there a system in place to protect children while in foster care? I have heard many stories of children who suffer abuse and neglect while in the foster care system, how is this being governed and prevented?

    • Hi Karin,
      Foster families are screened by local placement agencies and/or child welfare departments, and most foster parents are amazing, supportive people. Unfortunately unsuitable placements do happen.
      CASA volunteers are one way that the courts find out about abuse or neglect at foster placements, and also social workers who visit kids in their placements. The system in many parts of the country is just too underfunded to provide the level of supervision that we all would want. Many communities have passed regulations or improved screening since the time that Jackie was in foster care, but there is still a lot to do!
      It’s stories like these making the news that have driven a lot of reforms across the country.

  5. Pingback: I Am the Reason You Should Never Give Up on a Child | The CASA Update

  6. Hi Patty,
    You make inquiries as well on Iamjackiedavis.com regarding speaking engagements.

  7. chris draths says:

    this was just what I needed to hear, my CASA child is too intimidated by what she has been through to speak up for herself and the CPS(Child Protective Services) worker is too overwhelmed to pursue the fight. Totally motivated to continue the fight for what my heart knows is right but what the law doesn’t support — children’s rights. You are a gift, so proud of you for surviving, keep moving forward, can’t wait to see where you land!

  8. Anke says:

    I worked with Jackie for a little while and just love him. He is the kindest ,hardworking, positive and loving person you would ever want to meet. I knew a little of his story, but had no idea it was that bad.His smile is always there, he makes everyone around him better. I’m so thankful to have met him. Thank you Jackie for being you!

  9. Patty Lowrey says:

    I had the pleasure of hearing Jackie in Austin at the REACH Convening. I would love to get him to come speak to my kids! Is there anyway to make that happen?

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