On the Road with FMC

Poor Calculations and
Tremendous Results

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During the Fostering Media Connections (FMC) team's month-long stay in Baltimore, we hit a roadblock trying to get to a C-SPAN appearance in Washington, DC. Our calculations on distance versus time from Baltimore to Washington failed to include one very important and foreseeable variable: traffic. The margin for error was nonexistent. If we didn't make it to Washington by 9:15 a.m., C-SPAN's Washington Journal and host Libby Casey would be left with 48 minutes of national, live airtime and no guest.

On the way there, Eytan, our cameraman, sat in the passenger seat, monitoring the abysmal crawl of traffic on his phone. Sokhom Mao, a former foster youth who is now an intern for FMC, sat in the back shaking his head at the impossible folly that the drive represented. On one hand, FMC and the foster care movement we in part represent had a chance to describe the changing foster care narrative to a national audience; on the other hand, we were languishing in a grinding slog of brake lights and exhaust.

Daniel Heimpel spoke about foster care on C-SPAN's Washington Journal September 22.

The specter of C-SPAN loomed in my mind. I thought about the studio empty, my seat vacant, and a huge opportunity squandered because of faulty mental calculations--the price of a mind on overload with all of the other events we were organizing that week. "I just don't think we are going to make it," I said. "I will feel awful if I blow this opportunity."

"Why are you going to feel awful?" Sokhom asked me from the back seat. "This isn't about how you feel. It is about making things better for foster kids around the country. Kids like me. It is about us, not you."

My mind came back together. It all became as simple as it was when I wrote my first story about a teenage foster youth struggling through group homes and school. All the worries about how I would do if we ever made it to C-SPAN and how our press briefing the next day would turn out left my mind. All that mattered was the intent, and that intent was the same then as it was in the beginning of FMC and is now: to spur equal opportunity for young people who enter the foster care system, like Sokhom, and people outside of it, like myself.

The traffic moved slowly through downtown Washington. I was in the C-SPAN building at 9:05 a.m., in the elevator a minute later, and on air at 9:15 a.m. And for 48 minutes on live nationally broadcast television, I spoke not for myself, but for Sokhom and all his brothers and sisters in foster care. Sokhom had reminded me not to get so caught up in tasks that I forget the most important variable of all--the young people who we do this work for in the first place.

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