Foster Care Awareness Month: Upstate engineer says foster family saved his life

Published: May. 20, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - May is Foster Care Awareness Month.

Governor Henry McMaster along with the state’s Department of Social Services declared it earlier this month.

More than 4,000 children in our state are looking for homes, according to DSS.

Jack Sweeney was one of them. He entered the foster care system at seven years old. Sweeney waited for a family for at least eight years. When you see him at Mauldin Fire Rescue, you’d never know what he has been through.

“You got taken away from your family. And so, you’re like, ‘Man, who’s going to love me?’” Sweeney said.

At the time, Sweeney was living with his grandmother. He found out, when he got older, that she was secretly battling cancer. So, DSS had to step in. And he appreciates them for doing so.

“I was worried that I wasn’t getting adopted. My adoption worker, she was like, ‘Do you still want to be up for adoption?’ I was like, ‘Yes. There’s a family out there for me. And I’m trusting in God to find me that family,’” said Sweeney.

Sweeney says he went through all of the emotions. He even contemplated running away.

“When I was growing up, I was angry just because of my situation and being in foster care,” Sweeney said, “Other kids getting to do things that I wasn’t able to do; I just learned to cope with my feelings.”

However, at 17 years old, his prayer was answered. He built a relationship with a family for three years. Eventually, they asked him if he would like to join their family. Sweeney obliged. Within four months, he moved from Pickens to Greenville to be with his new family. He was happy but nervous about making new friends and starting over.

“I was excited, because I was going to have a mom and dad and a family just to love me,” Sweeney said.

Granting that wish for adoption is more difficult for teenagers in foster care. Karla Littleton with the South Carolina Foster Parents Association says she has heard several reasons why.

“People seem to be afraid of teens,” Littleton said, “They seem to be leery that they’re older, and they’re set in their ways, they don’t get to parent them, maybe, as much.”

Littleton says it’s not necessarily true. She has heard stories of parents who say teenagers spice up their lives, and they’re a blessing.

“We are really in need of homes that will foster teens and sibling groups. It’s really important for siblings to stay together whenever they can. It’s also very important for them to remain in familiar surroundings whenever they can,” Littleton said.

That means remaining in their home school and community by staying with a family member or family friend.

Fast forward, Sweeney now helps the community after a family stepped in to help him. He works as an engineer at the fire department. He hopes a family that sees his story will be inspired to do the same. And he says troubled kids need love too.

“Truthfully, it probably saved my life. And I wouldn’t be where I was without my foster family,” said Sweeney, “Everything that has happened in my life happened for a reason. And I thank my foster family for that.”

To learn more ways to support foster parents in your community, click here.

Littleton says the numbers of foster children in our state have remained consistent. They are partnering with school systems to get teachers and school staff to be approved to take in foster kids. They are also working with law enforcement on how to get involved.

You can also learn more on the South Carolina Foster Parents Association’s website.