Foster Kid

I was interviewed by a kid. I’ll call her “Kay,” but that’s not her name. Kay is a foster child who loves Auburn University football.

Kay is also serious about the sanctity of the interview process. Kay wants to be a lawyer when she grows up.

She got in touch with me because this is National Foster Care Month. Today happens to be National Foster Care Day.

Her digital recorder sat on the table. She gave me bottled water. She also had prepared homemade pimento cheese because she knows pimento cheese is my favorite.

It was very good cheese. However, instead of using pimentos, Kay used homegrown habanero peppers from her foster-mother’s garden that were spicy enough to strip the paint off interstate pavement. My lower intestinal tract will never be the same.

The interview was for Kay’s school. She was supposed to be writing about people who were fascinating. But she couldn’t find anyone like that, so instead she wrote about me.

She pressed the button on the recorder.

“Please state your name.” Her pencil was poised mid-air.

“Sean Dietrich.”

“Your FULL name, please,” Kay said.

“Sean P. Dietrich.”

“What does the ‘P’ stand for, please?”

“Percivus.”

“Really?”

“No, not really, I was just trying to make you laugh.”

But Kay does not laugh. She doesn’t move a facial muscle. Kay will make a very good prosecutor.

“Tell me how you started writing?”

“With a pencil,” I said.

“Please be serious.”

“Okay,” I said. “I’m a writer by accident, really.”

“Accident?”

“I was no good at anything else. And believe me, I’ve tried it all. I’ve worked a lot of jobs.”

“What kinds of jobs?”

“Oh boy, let’s see…. I’ve been a drywaller, a landscaper, an electrician’s assistant, a house painter, an ice-cream scooper, a beer-joint pianist, and once, after a wild night in Biloxi, I got ordained.”

“Is that true?” said Kay. “Were you really ordained?”

I retrieve the little plastic card from my wallet to prove it.

“You mean you’re actually ordained?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “One of my friends wanted me to officiate their wedding ceremony, so I had to get ordained.”

“So you are a preacher?”

“No.”

“But you have the card.”

“The card means nothing. It means I paid $150 bucks to a weird company in California that also ordained Bob Newhart and Cher. I’m not even very religious. I was raised Baptist, and that means we ate pear salad and my mother ironed my jeans.”

“But what about now?”

“Now, I wear jeans that are un-ironed.”

Little Miss Auburn made notes.

“What are your beliefs on God?” she asked.

Jiminy Christmas. This kid is tough.

“How about,” I suggested, “you tell me YOUR beliefs on God.”

She had to think about this.

“Well. I think he watches over us. I think he loves us all. Especially kids. I think he’s nicer than everyone. I think he looks like that old guy from that movie with the balloons on that little house that make the house go flying around. And also, God is also an Auburn fan.”

“Auburn? How do you know that?”

“Because the Bible says so.”

“It does?”

“Isaiah 40, verse 31. ‘But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, and they will mount up on wings like War Eagles…”

“That’s not how it goes.”

“Yes it is. Would you like some more pimento cheese, Mister Sean?”

“No, thank you.”

“Who is your hero?” she asked for her final question.

And I had to think about this. Truth be told, I have had a lot of heroes in my day. But when I think about all this child has been through, there is only one correct answer here.

“You are my hero,” I told her.

“Me?” she said. “Why?”

“Because, you just are.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes. You’re gonna go a long way in your life, Kay. I can feel it. ”

“Really? Do you think so?”

“I do.”

“Why do you say that?”

Because, even at her young age, this child has been up against insurmountable odds and survived.

Right now there are 500,000 foster kids in the US. A new child is placed in the foster system every 2 minutes. Only 50 percent of foster kids will graduate high school, and one third of fostered females will be pregnant before they graduate.

Foster kids are three times more likely to suffer from post traumatic stress disorder than US war veterans. And 80 percent have serious mental health issues. One out of every five fosters will experience homelessness after they age out of of care. More than 70 percent of those incarcerated were at one time foster children.

So yeah, this girl is fighting against the current, and succeeding. I’d say that qualifies her to be my hero.

When our interview was finished, she shook my hand. Then, she asked if she could give me a hug. She threw her arms around me and said:

“It’s kinda hard sometimes, being a foster kid, I never know what’s going on. I never know where I’m gonna be. You never know who wants you. Sometimes you never know stuff at all.”

My eyes turned pink. I drove home that night and I thought about her. In fact, I never stopped thinking about her. I was even thinking about her this morning, when someone emailed me to say that, after a long wait, my little hero has finally been adopted.

Whoever those lucky parents are, I hope they’re saving for Auburn tuition.

50 comments

  1. Peggy C - May 3, 2022 6:26 am

    I think she is going to earn a mountain of scholarships!

    Reply
  2. Debbie - May 3, 2022 9:14 am

    Precious girl. Thank you for helping her to feel valued. God bless her always🙏 You’re a good man, Sean.

    Reply
  3. Steve Leachman - May 3, 2022 9:54 am

    Dang you made me cry. In a good way.

    Reply
  4. Te - May 3, 2022 10:52 am

    You’re a good psychiatrist and a kind person. Kay sounds like a determined person, and, like you, I believe in her future. Foster care has gotten a bad rap, and justifiably. I hope Kay can overcome the scars of her past. What she may learn is that life scars us all. Can’t think of anyone who is unscathed. The upside is, by the time anyone is my age (older than God), it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s all baked in, and we are what we are.

    Reply
  5. Lynn M. Babcock - May 3, 2022 10:55 am

    Warrrrr Eagle, precious Kay! God is watching over you and waiting to gather you into His kind, loving arms, exactly as you picture. But that is just a tiny speck of who He is. He is also mightier than any super hero and He is fighting for YOU! He is Holy, Holy, Holy. I know, because I met Him at Auburn when I was 18 years old and He has never left me.

    Reply
  6. Karri Misky - May 3, 2022 11:10 am

    Your columns are the first thing I read every day. They are all so unique in their own way. This was has a very sweet ending. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re making this a nicer and better world.

    Reply
  7. pdjpop - May 3, 2022 11:17 am

    Even though I am not ordained: I beseech Ye people of the Lord to praise Him with a big “War Eagle” to celebrate Miss Kay!
    There is an orange and blue sky here in Fairhope to show God’s favorite colors most mornings and evenings.
    My heart is full knowing Kay is going to a family. I wish her the best.
    Thank you for this wonderful blog today, SPD.

    Reply
  8. Shirley Robin Ivie - May 3, 2022 11:43 am

    I really loved this story and the information about foster children was presented in such a manner it was interesting to read. I read your stories every night and Sean, I love your style!

    Reply
  9. Paul McCutchen - May 3, 2022 11:54 am

    I was trying to think of something profound but I believe the young lady will be the one encouraging us with her thoughts.

    Reply
  10. Trudy - May 3, 2022 12:03 pm

    Sean, I loved your story. Of course, I love every one of them. I particularly liked the drawing of the shoes. I wondered who did your drawings, so I enlarged it. Low and behold, there was your name. You are so multi talented; writer, artist, musician, builder of beautiful chairs, and saint. You may be “no good” at everything else you tried, but you are a craftsman of what you do. You spread a lot of love and joy with your talents. I thank God for you
    Love from a Southern Baptist.

    Reply
  11. Christine - May 3, 2022 12:16 pm

    Beautiful, and she’s my hero too♥️

    Reply
  12. Christine - May 3, 2022 12:17 pm

    Beautiful and she’s my hero too ♥️

    Reply
  13. Kay Quinton - May 3, 2022 12:34 pm

    I’m still waiting to hear about the opening of Camp Okie Dokie!!
    I begin each day reading your post! Thank you, Sean!!

    Reply
  14. Pingback: Sean of the South: Foster Kid | The Trussville Tribune

  15. Ruth Mitchell - May 3, 2022 12:39 pm

    You never let me down with your tender hearted messages. The information you gave about foster children is heartbreaking, and I am thankful your hero found her forever family.

    Reply
  16. Rick Putnam - May 3, 2022 12:42 pm

    You did it again

    Reply
  17. Naomi Smith - May 3, 2022 12:45 pm

    Sean, you are one special guy. Thank you for highlighting National Foster Child day. These kids are in a sad plight. My husband and I have taken care of foster kids in the past. Each has their own unique set of circumstances. We loved them, rocked them, took care of their needs. They all went back to their family, but one. He stayed and became our son after parental right were terminated. He is now 38 and has been ours for almost all that time. He was 3 months old when we got him. We adopted him 2 years later.

    Reply
  18. Shelton A. - May 3, 2022 12:51 pm

    Thanks be to God she was adopted! I think you’re right about the Auburn tuition, too. God bless you for sharing Kay’s story and God bless Kay and her new family. Go get ’em, Kay and enjoy the love!

    Reply
  19. Evelyn - May 3, 2022 1:00 pm

    Wishing all life’s best to Kay. What a bright and confident girl she is! She’s on her way. Happy new home.

    Reply
  20. Jan - May 3, 2022 1:07 pm

    Love this! Love Kay and all the wonderful kids waiting for a family! Thank you, Sean!

    Reply
  21. Irene Clements - May 3, 2022 1:47 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for highlighting foster care today. Your article is touchingly accurate. Our family fostered for 27 years and had 127 children join us during that time. These children and youth are my heroes, too. Amazingly resilient and strong while doing their best to adjust to the foster care system. So much needs to change to make that a better system. We need many more families to step up and open their families to children who need them for a time while they work to help their parent(s) achieve safe and healthily reunification with them.

    Reply
  22. MermaidGrammy - May 3, 2022 1:49 pm

    I STILL STRONGLY BELIEVE YOU AND JAMIE ARE EXCELLENT ADOPTIVE PARENTS. ITS NEVER TOO LATE. THOUSANDS OF OTHER LITTLE KAYS ARE OUT THERE FOR YOU!

    Reply
  23. Brant Riley - May 3, 2022 1:56 pm

    Way to go Kay! War Eagle!

    Reply
  24. Janet George - May 3, 2022 1:57 pm

    WAR EAGLE, HEYYYYY!!!!

    Reply
  25. Lee Henderson - May 3, 2022 2:17 pm

    Sean,
    I thought about you and your love of places to eat. Please check out Mr. P’s Deli at 813 Shades Crest Road in Bluff Park. A great place for lunch and meat

    Reply
  26. Glenda Busby-Fowler Hinkle - May 3, 2022 2:27 pm

    War Eagle, Kay!! If there is a “gofundme” page or other ways to donate to your Auburn fund, I’d like to contribute!! I hope you enjoy your life and SOAR like the EAGLES!!

    Reply
  27. Steve McCaleb - May 3, 2022 2:30 pm

    Boy, for somebody who says he’s not very religious you have an uncanny knack of passing along a good message in the midst of making us laugh/cry. The world needs a Lot more “not very religious “ people like you. Keep that light of yours turned up bright….there’s a whole lot of folks out here in the dark looking for it. God bless both Little Miss Auburn and you.

    Reply
  28. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - May 3, 2022 2:35 pm

    Reply
  29. Layne A Barrett - May 3, 2022 2:50 pm

    Sean, this is an incredible story and it hits home because I have a good friend that is adopting a 12 year old boy from Mississippi that was in foster care under her niece’s care. Because of some crap in the system, he was going to be taken out of her niece’s house and put back in the system. My friend could not stand to see that happen cos this kid is amazing despite all the stuff he’s been through in his short life. He’s been under their care for almost 3 years and had flourished in school and sports and he’s even started taking guitar lessons from me. Now my friend and her husband are both 60-ish and this was probably what they had planned for this time of their life. But, God put in in their hearts to give this kid a chance and for that reason they are heroes to me. Thanks for all your stories!

    Reply
  30. Willson and Bana Roberts - May 3, 2022 4:07 pm

    Great interview (by Kay) and great responses by you! I hope you will follow her and let us know how she is doing. I predict a great future for Kay, except for that Auburn stuff…….I’m a Gotor in Oklahoma!

    Reply
  31. BJean - May 3, 2022 4:14 pm

    Sean, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. My soul knows this very well!

    Reply
  32. Barbara-Jean Gravlee - May 3, 2022 4:19 pm

    Sharing on Facebook. Foster kids need all the love we can give them!

    Reply
  33. Helen De Prima - May 3, 2022 4:23 pm

    A foster kid is a major character in my latest book.

    Reply
  34. S - May 3, 2022 4:51 pm

    What an eloquent argument for a woman’s right over her own health.

    Reply
  35. Anne Trawick - May 3, 2022 5:04 pm

    Dammit, I’m 77 years old, and I don’t need a foster child. I’m having to fight the impulse.

    Reply
  36. Karen - May 3, 2022 5:43 pm

    I had no idea. Obviously the system needs to make huge changes.

    Reply
  37. Patricia Gibson - May 3, 2022 6:07 pm

    Thank God!

    Reply
  38. Sharon Allemang - May 3, 2022 7:08 pm

    Wonderful story today, Sean.. Thanx for sharing♥️

    Reply
  39. Kathie J Kerr - May 3, 2022 7:17 pm

    You guys would make awesome foster family

    Reply
  40. Hazel Barber - May 3, 2022 8:12 pm

    Kay is definitely a hero! Your story made tears in my eyes. Did you know tears are the most precious things on earth. They are made up of 1% water and 99% feelings. Sean you are a hero as well.

    Reply
  41. Linda Moon - May 3, 2022 9:03 pm

    Brief comment from my busy self today: I’m so happy she was adopted!! Hugs!!

    Reply
  42. Mary Day - May 3, 2022 9:45 pm

    I hope War Eagle alumni are contributing to scholarship funds to help deserving people attend their university!

    Reply
  43. Barbara Culwell - May 3, 2022 9:52 pm

    So very touching.. Being and Auburn grad (that lives in Texas) I agree about God being an Auburn Fan. That was a good one! I love how you “see” people. Your encouragement to her is inspiring. Thanks Sean.

    Reply
  44. Billy Arnall - May 4, 2022 5:20 am

    God bless Kay and you for taking time to do this interview. I am a Auburn grad and hope she makes it to Auburn one day.

    Reply
  45. Ann of Mobile - May 4, 2022 6:11 pm

    Amen, Sean. Your newest hero is indeed. Angels are those good people who adopt foster children for all of and only the right reasons. I know two who did so and I am so proud of them!

    Reply
  46. Steve Brown - May 5, 2022 12:14 am

    Sean, thanks for drawing attention to the foster care dilemma we have in this country and for what seems like one of the success stories coming out of that system. It’s tough! I’m the president of the board of a foster home here in Birmingham that cares for nurtures 18 young boys and girls—Children’s Village. Great place with a great story that I’d love to share with you sometime.

    Reply
  47. Lynn Dwelle - May 5, 2022 2:51 pm

    Beautiful and made my eyes water.

    Reply
  48. Kamol - May 7, 2022 4:25 am

    I love you, Sean.

    Your loving,
    Kamol/ Bangladesh

    Reply
  49. Donna Ledford - May 7, 2022 6:21 pm

    You chose a great hero. I hope there are updates on Kay from time to time.

    Reply

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