South Charlotte Weekly
Nonprofit organization finds homes for foster children in North Carolina
More than 400 people attended Children’s Home Society of North Carolina’s “A Place to Call Home Luncheon” on Thursday, April 30, at the Westin Hotel in uptown Charlotte.
The Children’s Home Society (CHSNC) is a nonprofit, founded in 1902, and supports more than 20,000 North Carolinian children and families through adoption, foster care, parenting education, teen pregnancy prevention and family preservation programs.
Mary Ellen Randall, CHSNC development associate, said this annual event gives the organization the opportunity to express gratitude and raise money to support more families and children in 10 cities in North Carolina.
“This event is a celebration of families, recognition of what the problem is and how to solve it and an appreciation for all families, regardless of how they are shaped,” Randall said.
Eric Thomas, chief meteorologist at WBTV Charlotte, talked to the crowd about his personal connection to adoption.
A family friend adopted Thomas when he was five days old and he wants to pay it forward by raising awareness about the Children’s Home Society.
“These kids have been through so much … it takes the collective effort of many hands working together to give these kids the opportunity for a happy life,” he said.
Thomas, a south Charlotte resident, also was a guest speaker at the annual luncheon last year, where he talked about how his 18-year-old birth mother gave him up for adoption, because of the stigma attached with unplanned pregnancy in the 1960s.
Thomas said he didn’t blame his mother for her actions.
“It was the ultimate expression of love, selfless and unconditional,” he said.
The event’s keynote speaker was well-known television actress Victoria Rowell, who starred in “The Young and the Restless” and “Diagnosis Murder.” Rowell has a personal connection to foster care, because she grew up in the foster system in Maine. Her New York Times bestseller, “The Women Who Raised Me,” chronicles how several women supported her through foster care and into New York City’s ballet and acting scene.
“I am honored to be a part of Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, working to bring awareness to the 500,000 children nationwide that are in the foster system,” she said. “It’s important to me, to be a voice for the voiceless and bring forth those stories that reflect the disenfranchised and underserved; in order to be a part of the solution, we have to start with children and the complexities that surround the family unit such as drugs, unemployment, poverty and lack of education.”
Rowell said she feels passionate about helping families and children. She started a foundation in California called Rowell Family Empowerment – a nonprofit that supports families and children with disabilities. She also continues to speak up for the rights of emancipated foster care children, and her story will be included in an archive for the National Endowment for the Arts 50th anniversary.
Rowell urged listeners to start discussions about poverty, the lack of education and the pressures that arise because of tragic circumstances surrounding children’s upbringing during her speech.
“We have to give kids opportunities; give them the opportunity to fail before they succeed, just give them a chance,” she said. “It happened for me – 18 years of foster care is the cornerstone of my strength. We can continue to do that for these children.”
CHSNC President Brian Maness discussed the challenges facing foster care children in the state. The amount of foster care children has increased in North Carolina by 25 percent, going from 8,000 to 10,000 foster care children from 2014 to 2015.
“We estimate 1,100 will be reported this year, but the unfortunate part is, we will only be able to help 15 percent of those children,” he said.
The nonprofit presented a video during the luncheon featuring foster children, where they discussed their desire for a family.
“It’s hard to go through life without a mom and a dad,” one teenager said in the video.
“I haven’t felt a large amount of love in a long time. … Without respect, trust and love, you just don’t feel safe and happy,” another said.
Visit http://www.chsnc.org/ to find out more information about Children’s Home Society of North Carolina.