Leading ‘forgotten teens’ in right direction
by Donald Conkey
Columnist
July 17, 2013 09:52 PM | 649 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In the June 23 issue of the Cherokee Tribune, reporter Michelle Babcock provided a wonderful insight into the efforts by Juvenile Court Judge John Summer to help a group of teens who have spent much of their life in foster homes, but are now reaching that age when they will leave the program and be left on their own, becoming “Forgotten Teens.”

I use the term “Forgotten Teens” purposely because 32 years ago my wife, Joan, and I took in such a boy and gave him the guidance Judge Summer indicates he hopes some family will give to the 59 local teens here in Cherokee County.

In addition to taking in an 18-year-old homeless boy, Joan and I had earlier taken in a foster boy who lived with us about three years. In each case, now more than 30 years ago, each boy continues to bless our lives. The 18-year-old now calls us mom and dad and their four marvelous children call us grandma and grandpa. Joan and I are now literally their family.

Some Cherokeeans may remember Sam Bracken. He and his family lived in Towne Lake for several years and Sam ran for the school board in 2004. Today, he is an author and motivational speaker who travels the world. His latest book, “My Orange Duffel Bag,” is a bestselling motivational book that lists seven steps “Forgotten Teens” can follow to overcome their lack of a stable family environment.

Sam’s mother threw him out because of her drug habit cost. The success of Sam’s book has led to a foundation, “My Orange Duffel Bag,” created specifically to encourage the youth Judge Summer hopes to reach to help them realize their potential as a productive citizen of society.

While I commend Judge Summer for his efforts to solve a growing problem in our society, a society fast losing its way, I would suggest that in addition to the “judges, attorneys, court staff, courthouse volunteers, law enforcement and state agency representatives” that he add one other vital segment of our Cherokee County community — the churches and their pastors, bishops, priests and rabbis to his Foundation board.

It would be my guess that the exclusion of this religious segment of our county community was done purposely based on what is fast becoming a serious stumbling block to our freedoms, both nationally and locally — political correctness based on separation of church and state.

Any student of the Declaration of Independence realizes very quickly that Thomas Jefferson indicated that the very cornerstones of America’s future would be based on America’s adherence to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

For the first 125 years, America’s prosperity paralleled its adherence to those cornerstone principles that America was founded on. And during this period of time, the pulpits of America’s churches taught their congregants that there is a God, as Jefferson noted, not once but four times in his document, and that when America ceases to be good they will cease to have the God of their Fathers lead and protect them.

Has that day come? Many believe it has. My guess is that these nearly “Forgotten Teens” have no clue that they are indeed a “Child of God,” nor do they have any idea of how to get in touch with their Father in Heaven via prayer, or even how to pray.

There are many more than 59 churches, of many denominations, not all Christian, in the county. There should be at least 59 of these churches who would sponsor one of these ‘Forgotten Teens’ and provide for them the guidance they will need to become productive citizens of society.

If the joy and happiness that Joan and I have found in serving our two young men is any indication of what others might experience, then it truly is worth the effort. To have a boy call us dad and mom, and have four beautiful children call us grandma and grandpa is reward enough, never mind that you are in the service of your God when you provide such service, and feel that joy of watching a forgotten teen find him/herself and become productive citizens.

I again commend Judge Summer for his efforts, but again strongly suggest he add to his Foundation board members from the county’s religious community and let them provide these “Forgotten Teens” the opportunity to learn who they are — a ‘Child of God,’ a God who still loves them in spite of their past challenges.



Donald Conkey is a retired agricultural economist in Woodstock.
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