The second coolest perk of running America's only monthly foster care magazine is all the highfalutin events I get to attend. The coolest perk of running Foster Focus is getting kids adopted and sharing foster care stories with readers all across the country.
At the beginning of the summer two New York City foster care landmarks were told they were no longer going to be funded. This happens a lot. Not so much in NYC but all over the country. Nonprofits lose their funding. Well intentioned groups disappear.
That wouldn't be the case this time.
You Gotta Believe and the Council of Adoptable Children have been staples of the NYC foster care scene for as long as anyone can remember. Pat O'Brien started You Gotta Believe with the mission of finding older and aged out (too old for the state to care for) foster youth homes. No age is too old to be adopted seems to be the mantra. The COAC has the same prominence in the city, linking foster youth to adopted families in the city since Derek Jeter posters lined the subway.
These are two vital programs and in the case of older foster youth, the only groups in the city that put in the work. How can these two programs disappear? They wouldn't have to if Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley had anything to do with it.
These two gentlemen did what I think more folks should do; they saw a problem and stepped up to offer a solution.
You see, Seth and James are very familiar with foster care and adoption, they adopted two children of their own, one with the help of the COAC. They know the city because they kind of ARE the city. Two men who live and breathe Broadway. Seth has a radio show about all things Broadway on Sirius, in addition to knowing everything about the subject he and his husband James are a part of the fabric of the famed musical strip of land. Musicians and actors both, they know the city and its culture.
They also know all the stars that populate the landscape. Calling on those stars led to a night I won't soon forget called Voices for the Voiceless, Stars for Foster Kids at the St. James Theater.
On Monday June 29th the stars of Broadway, like Darren Criss, Megan Hilty and Eden Espinosa joined TV stars Titus Burgess, Jane Krakowski, Alec Mapa, Caroline Rhea and Tina Fey on stage with Rudetsky at the helm of a small orchestra to pay tribute to foster care and the two organizations in jeopardy of disbanding.
But the star power wasn't limited to the names on the playbill. Former foster youth brought star power of their own.
Antwone Fisher, fashion mogul Tony Shellman and 80s superstar Charlene Tilton, all from foster care, took to the stage to talk about their time in care and introduce the musical acts.
The theme of the night was songs that inspired the presenters, who along with those big name foster care alumni included successful adoptees of the You Gotta Believe program. One by one they stood before the packed house and announced the age at which they were adopted. 20, 22, 24 and 25 years old they professed to an astonished audience. (It's true, you can adopt us at any age! A 70 year old was just adopted before the summer began.) They showed poise amidst the bright stage lights. They made the audience feel the pain of being care and the joy of finding a family.
Maybe it was the songs being sung live. Or maybe it was seeing people you've seen on TV standing only feet in front of you. Whatever the reason, the feel of the theater was electric. That electricity most likely came from the faces of kids who never thought they'd see such a spectacle in their lives. It came from the kids for whom all these stars had showed up to support. It came from Pat O'Brien who saw the seed he planted twenty years ago become something so worthwhile that all of these people were willing to fight together to keep it alive. And maybe a little of that electricity came from this former foster kid who has been waiting for people to come together for the kids I spend my whole year informing the country about.
It was one heck of a night on Broadway. The performers sang their hearts out. Caroline Rhea, Jane Krakowski, Alec Mapa and Tina Fey had us rolling in the aisles. Seth Rudestky and James Wesley helped raise over a half million dollars for You Gotta Believe and the Council of Adoptable Children. But more importantly they got up and did something in defense of foster youth in their city.
Foster care needs more of this. More attention. More star power. More doing it ourselves. More awareness. More nights that put foster care on the front page.
The kids deserve it.
Those aren't the only big names that come from foster care and adoption.
Check out the most complete list of famous former foster/adopted youth here.