TUSTIN (CBSLA.com) — The Orange County Register newspaper honored their “everyday heroes”, or people who make a difference without being in the spotlight, with the top honor going to a man who works with foster care teens.
Jim Carson, a transitional housing manager, assists the teens, who make the difficult transition into the real world.
When foster kids become 18, many of them face the drastic reality of finding themselves alone, and with nowhere to turn.
“As the kids say ‘when you get kicked to the curb’, which is when you get released from the foster care system, many of these children have nowhere to go,” Carson said. “Statistically, the first year, when a child gets out of foster care, fifty to sixty percent of them are homeless the first year. So there was a big, big need.”
Jim’s housing program, called “Rising Tide”, is run through the Orangewood Children’s Foundation, and provides a home and help for kids who have just graduated from the foster care system, but may not yet be ready to handle life on their own.
“We help them get going with their jobs, or education, and even things like getting documents or physical exams,” Carson said. “Whatever it is they need.”
Many foster kids suffer traumatic experiences, including abuse and neglect. Jim helps them with those issues, as well.
“He’s like my dad! I call him ‘Pops’,” foster care graduate Oree Freeman said. “You can call him at two or three a.m., and you could be at your lowest point in your life, or you could be on skid row. You could be anywhere, and he’ll pick up the phone, and he’s going to figure out some way, somehow, to help you.”
Carson revealed that Freeman was in such a “low point” herself when he met her, five years ago.
“She was blowing up, and just totally angry and tearing the place apart, and something about her caught my eye, and I wanted to see if I could talk to her and help her, and this amazing relationship has built,” Carson said. “And you know I plan on walking her down the aisle.”
Freeman, now 19, has a steady job, while also taking classes at college, and she hopes to one day have a career, working with underprivileged youth.
“No matter if I have my head held down, or if I feel like I can’t do it, he believes in me,” Freeman said. “If I tell him I’m going to make one-million dollars, or go to the moon, he’s going to believe in me, and he’s going to support me one-hundred percent.”