Former foster care youth share experiences with Michigan Adoption & Foster Care Task Force

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 7, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communicationsssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – Darryl Gardner was a child when he entered foster care after witnessing his father’s murder and his mother become addicted to crack cocaine.  

Gardner, 39, now an administrator at Wayne State University, spoke about his childhood experiences in front of the Michigan Bipartisan Adoption and Foster Care Task Force today along with other former foster care youth. Their aim was to provide real examples of what it’s like to grow up in Michigan’s child welfare system. 

The speakers received resources and support by non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies in the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA).  

Orchards Children’s Services, an AACFA member, helped Gardner thrive by providing a family environment and mental health services that eventually led to his mother getting clean and reuniting with her children. 

The mental health support and family environment Orchards provided to me has helped me and my family get to where we are today,” Gardner said. “Without that support, my life could have looked much different than it does now.” 

Juan Walker, a 22-year-old student at Wayne State University, spent most of his life in the foster care system. When he was a child, courts terminated his mother’s parental rights and Walker experienced over 20 placements in foster care homes and residential facilities on six different occasions. 

Through Orchards Children’s Services, Walker was able to remain with the same agency no matter where he was placed, providing consistency to his life when he needed it. Through the Orchards Promise Scholarship, Walker attends college. The scholarship given through Orchards is funded entirely by donors. 

“Services like those at Orchards should be the norm in Michigan’s child welfare system,” Walker said. “I had to rely on luck and generosity; however, that shouldn’t be the case for others to achieve great outcomes such as graduating from college. Although I am still writing my story, I would like to use my experiences to strike a great deal of change within the system.” 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies do not receive the same amount of funding as state-run child welfare agencies. AACFA aims to increase funding fairness through its Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign. Read more about the campaign on AACFA’s website 

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All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

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