Helping foster kids transition into adults – One who lived that life joins non-profit

November 30, 2010 | Lexington Herald-Leader (KY)
Author: Merlene Davis Herald-Leader columnist Section: Health\Family 764 Words

After he turned 18 and aged out of state custody, Adrian Lee Oliver discovered he had been misspelling his name for most of his

“When I got my birth certificate I noticed my name was spelled A-D-R-A-I-N,” Oliver said. “I had been spelling it wrong for all those

He chose to continue to spell it the way he always had.

Oliver, 25, spent 12 1/2 years in Kentucky’s foster care system. He and three older siblings were taken from their home when he
was 6 years old, and he never returned.

“I never got told the conditions of my stay in foster care,” Oliver said. “No one seemed to think it was relevant.”
He and his two brothers were reunited in a group home a year later and then separated again, he said. The closest he came to living
with his brothers after that was at age 10 when they lived in separate dormitories at a group home. He never was reunited with his
sister while in state custody.

Oliver lived in 35 or 40 group homes and foster homes while in state custody, he said. His longest stay was about one year.
Since aging out of the system at 18, he decided to remain in state custody by continuing his education at Bluegrass Community and
Technical College. He took a class in Chinese culture and got an opportunity to teach English in China for two years. Now that he
has returned, he is hoping to return to school to study sociology.

It’s been a struggle for Oliver, but his story is not that different from others who have aged out of foster care without a family to
support them.

That’s why he joined Fostering Goodwill, a program that reaches out to former foster care youth who must learn to navigate life
alone. The non-profit can tell them about tuition waivers that will pay college tuition, about getting rent and utilities paid, and gift
cards for food twice a month as long as they opt to continue their education under state care.
Oliver serves as vice president of the board at Fostering Goodwill.

Social workers Jeff Culver and Earl Washington started the program about five years ago and have watched it grow into the
program they dreamed it would.

During the Christmas holidays, the program tries to give each of the young people a gift card, which sometimes is the only present
they get. This year the cards will be given out during a celebration at Gattitown on Dec. 20.

There will be door prizes as well as four awards to the young people who exemplify good qualities and character, Culver said. Those
awards are in honor of Nick Carter, a young man who committed suicide before his 21st birthday in 2008 just as he was about to
age out of the system.

“We had a great turnout last year of more than 100 kids,” Culver said.

Fostering Goodwill is “overdue and more than necessary,” Oliver said. “It is trying to provide that network for when you are one of
November 30, 2010 | Lexington Herald-Leader (KY) the people who age out. You are not educated on how to survive on your own. That is what it was for me.”
After turning 18, Oliver “wallowed in alcohol” and bounced around for a few years trying to find himself, he said.
“We try to pick up where state custody leaves off,” he said. “We help to put them on the right track.”

Oliver occasionally sees his brothers and sister, but their relationships, their bonds have been damaged.

“In our particular situation, because we never got picked up by a family, we just don’t know anything about each other,” Oliver said.
“It’s more like friends that bump into each other.”

Still, he refuses to use his experiences as a crutch. Instead, he wants to use them to help others.

“I’m trying to get in the position to advocate for people who have the same unfortunate experiences as I do,” he said.

It seems donating a gift card for youth in similar situations is a very small sacrifice on our part.

Reach Merlene Davis at (859) 231-3218 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3218, or

Donating gift cards to Fostering Goodwill
Jeff Culver, one of the founders of the non-profit Fostering Goodwill program that gives gift cards at Christmastime to youth who
have aged out of foster care, said many young people prefer cards for Wal-Mart or Target. Or you can give monetary cards that can
be used anywhere.

Simply purchase a gift card and mail it to Fostering Goodwill, P.O. Box 54561, Lexington, Ky. 40555. You may also send a check for
a card to be purchased. For more information, call Angie Funk, (859) 433-1206.