You can label me a skeptic, but there’s something nagging at me about the story that went viral last week about Davion Only. When I first heard about it, I was so heartbroken that this young man walked into a church and, following the service, got up and addressed the congregation, asking simply if any one would adopt him. According to ABCNews.com, he had been raised in foster care. Now at 15, he was begging for a home: “I’ll take anyone. Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.”
It was such a beautiful story and as I got to the end I thought for sure I missed the part about the family or couple or grandmother that jumped to their feet and tearfully made this young boy’s wish come true. Nothing like that happened. It’s been a week and still Davion Only is no closer to a family of his own.
My cynicism in humanity is restored. Then I invested more time in the story and found something peculiar that, while it was posted last week, it happened in September. Naplenews.com reprinted the Tampa Bay Times story written by Lane Degregory:
“This had been his idea. He’d heard something about God helping people who help themselves. So here he was, on a Sunday in September, surrounded by strangers, taking his future into his own sweaty hands.”
But, I’ve yet to see anything about Davion asking to be adopted in that church on that afternoon:
“Then he introduced Davion, who shuffled to the pulpit. Without looking up, Davion wiped his palms on his pants, cleared his throat, and said:
”My name is Davion and I’ve been in foster care since I was born … I know God hasn’t given up on me. So I’m not giving up either.”
So what was the original story? Did Degregory’s piece get sidelined and then put in when space was open, then came the unfortunate mistaken headline: An orphan goes to church and asks someone, anyone to adopt him. It would make sense as to why not one member of that church stood up.
To date, Davion Only has still not been adopted, although his story has gone viral and touched others around the world. Since last week, the Eckerd Agency that oversees his foster care has been overwhelmed with calls, even England’s Mailonline.com found his biological family that wants him home. I assume the thousands of calls to Eckerd are being routed to other kids looking for forever homes, but I can’t be sure.
It’s an easy story to believe. Davion is 15. One of the biggest problems that face foster kids is what happens on their 18th birthdays – they age out. Few are provided the resources or educational tracks for college or even a vocation, let alone skills for living outside in the world.
The Real Gift
You might think that all foster kids want to find a family. But here’s something interesting: According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s home page of facts and figures, there’s something kids want more – an education.
“States spent a mere 1.2-1.3% of available federal funds on parent recruitment and training services even though 22% of children in foster care had adoption as their goal.”
Nearly 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma or GED, and a mere 6% had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care. One study shows 70% of all youth in foster care have the desire to attend college.
So what’s the story? Read the Tampa Bay Times article again. It’s not a news story or a feature, the writer appeared to bes with Only every step of the way.
In June, Davion sat at a library computer, unfolded his birth certificate and, for the first time, searched for his mother’s name. Up came her mug shot: 6-foot-1, 270 pounds — tall, big and dark, like him. Petty theft, cocaine.
Next he saw the obituary: La-Dwina Ilene “Big Dust” McCloud, 55, of Clearwater, died June 5, 2013. Just a few weeks before.
In church, Davion scanned the crowd. More than 300 people packed the pews. Men in bright suits, grandmoms in sequined hats, moms hugging toddlers on their laps. Everyone seemed to have a family except him.
Davion sat beside Going, his caseworker from Eckerd, and struggled to follow the sermon: something about a letter Paul wrote. “He was in prison,” said the Rev. Brian Brown. “Awaiting an uncertain future … “
Sometimes Davion felt like that, holed up at Eckerd’s Carlton Manor residential group home with 12 teenage boys, all with problems. All those rules, cameras recording everything.
What do you think?