At a recent meeting concerning foster youth, I met a young woman, Shamir. Waif-like, with immaculately coiffed hair, she clicked her long nails nervously on the table.
Abandoned as a toddler, she passed through dozens of foster homes before ending up homeless in Vegas where she worked as a "dancer". She returned home with a young baby, but no one, she found, would take her. That's when she decided she would go to college. She dreamt of opening a shelter for foster youth with children.
Right now, she said fiercely, the only thing keeping her from her goal was an Algebra class that she'd failed twice. "I got this thing with math," she said.
By any standard, foster kids perform abysmally. Abandoned, they find it notoriously hard to trust the world. These are the throw-away kids who've grown accustomed to being failed by the system. More than half end up homeless or exploited.
At break, I asked Shamir if she would like some help. Later, we sat with her seven-year old boy, who demanded her attention. He needed help with homework. He was hungry. Someone at school had taken his lunch.