He Survived the Foster Care System
Posted April 20, 2016on:
Abandoned by his father, neglected by his mother, shuttled between foster homes and a boys’ ranch for most of his formative years, a young man refuses to succumb to the fate that the world says should be his.
The above description comes from the inside flap of The Boy Who Carried Bricks, an autobiography from Alton Carter. Writer Space quotes Carter as saying that the title is both literal and figurative. One of the punishments Carter faced at a ranch for boys where he lived for a while as a teen was to pick up, carry, and stack bricks over and over again. The boys sometimes did it for seven hours straight. At the same time, Carter also carried the weight of many issues, all of which caused him self-esteem and relationship problems.
Alton Carter grew up in Oklahoma, where he still makes his home with his wife and two sons. At age eight, he entered the foster care program, where he was placed into multiple homes throughout the state. About many of these homes, Carter says, a lot of his foster parents shouldn’t have been foster parents. They just didn’t take care of the children entrusted to them.
Against all odds, Carter was the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college. Previously, no one in his family had even passed grade nine. He graduated from Cushing High School with no intentions of attending college, but a former Oklahoma State University staff member kindly enrolled him without his permission, and he used the opportunity to receive his bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Now the director of youth ministries for the First United Methodist Church of Stillwater, Oklahoma, Carter has dedicated his life to working with young people. In 2015, Carter founded the Alton Carter Inspire Foundation with the goal of assisting young people who have lived in foster care, group homes, or DHS juvenile facilities in securing a college degree.
Carter waited to write The Boy Who Carried Bricks until his mom passed away. He tells OColley.com that his autobiography isn’t meant to gain pity or compare it to the trials others have faced, but instead to give inspiration to youth who may be in a similar situation. “There are kids still hungry, still abused with so many problems and we just need people to help,” Carter said. “This book is aimed at bringing light on the idea that there are still kids out there like me.”
There are over 400,000 children in foster care. Young people end up in foster care, through no fault of their own, but are removed from their families due to abusive or neglectful situations. In the case of Carter, his mom had five children through five different men, and rarely stayed at home with them. His memoir is just one example of how a child might end up in foster care.
- 70% of children in foster care never graduate high school
- 74% of children in foster care end up incarcerated
- 50% of children in foster care will be unemployed at the age of 24
- 1 in 5 children in foster care will become homeless by age 18
Repeatedly in his autobiography, Carter refers to his other siblings and the sad outcomes of their lives. One of them died young, while the others turned to a life of crime. Although he typically didn’t stay in touch with others he met in foster care, he does tell of one boy who ran away rather than face time in jail. His memoir puts a face to the heart-breaking online statistics about today’s youth in foster care.
Tomorrow I’ll review The Boy Who Carried Bricks. Save the date: April 21!