May is National Foster Care Month. There are more than 380 thousand children nationwide in foster care under the age of 18. In Mississippi this month there are more than four thousand children in foster care. On this week's Wednesday's Child we talk with a former foster child who tells us she wants to use her experience to help other children in custody.
22 year old Jaszmen Hawthorne is still celebrating a major accomplishment. She graduated from Jackson State University with a degree in social work. Jaszmen is a former foster child, taken because of her mother's drug addiction.
"It was emotional. It was very, very emotional because I mean it just happened so fast, all at one time. It was just like yall pack your stuff, you're fixin to leave. And the police were everywhere", Jaszmen said.
Jaszmen says one of the biggest challenges was keeping up in school because of all the moving.
"During my 8th grade year I moved 6 times", said Jaszmen.
Her Great Grandmother had taken care of her. She says is was her influence and teaching that helped her make it.
"My Grandmother just passed in September and she was 94 years old. If it killed me to get to May 4, 2013, I had to get there and it was for her", Jaszmen said.
She plans to use her social work degree to help other children in foster care who are emancipated at 18.
"For a child to be emancipated at 18 just cut loose its not, it does not work like that. It's not going to , its not going to add to the productive citizens in society", Jaszmen told us.
"Violators of the law, or entering the homeless population. Those are the two things that happen if they are put out into the community without any support or the skills that they need", said Cherney.
Sue Cherney is Executive Director of Southern Christian Services for children and youth. Her organization helped Jaszmen with rent and provided support to help her get through college.
"And even with the extra money from Southern Christian Services I was still working 3 and 4 jobs at a time", Jaszmen said.
Cherney added, "We really are committed to the older kids in the foster care system".
Jaszmen does not regret being in foster care or not being adopted. She is thankful her great grandmother's strength helped her cope and persevere.
"Cause I was able to go to a house where I had no worries. I didn't have to do the grocery shopping, I didn't have to cook or you know take care of someone", Jaszmen explained.
Jaszmen is now certified to work as a Guardian At Litem.. Her next goal.
"I just want to save the world", said Jaszmen.
Cherney says it is important to give foster children a circle of hope, love and support.
"Better to light a candle than curse the darkness. We're in the business of lighting candles here", Cherney said.
There are currently 500 children free for adoption. Less than 140 of those children are waiting for permanent placement. Call the Mississippi Adoption Resource Exchange at 1-800-821-9157 for more information.
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