By Leah Asmelash
For Titianna Goings, foster care has been one of the most permanent things in her life. Her mom was in foster care and she was born into the system in New York City, but came to North Carolina when she was adopted by her aunt. When her aunt died, she and her siblings were placed into the custody of their abusive uncle, who had previously been convicted of murder.
“When social services or the state workers came, my uncle put on a front and made a false image,” said Goings, who’s now 24. “Then, when the doors was closed and they pulled out of the driveway, it was back to normal. Back to the verbal, mental, sexual, all types of abuse.”
One day, her uncle beat her brother to unconsciousness, landing him in prison for the second time.
For Goings and her siblings, they were right back where they started, in foster care.
Raising the standard
Goings was a featured speaker at an event in at the capitol complex in Raleigh to celebrate the adoption of House Bill 630, which became law on June 21.
The new law, known as Rylan’s Law, is named for toddler Rylan Ott, who was in foster care but was returned to his mother, who had a previous history of neglect and substance abuse, against the objections of his court-appointed guardian. Rylan drowned in a lake two months later,
Sen. Tamara Barringer (R-Cary) along with other members of the General Assembly and foster youth and parents from across North Carolina, joined in Raleigh to celebrate the bill becoming law. They were joined by country singer Jimmy Wayne, who was a foster child growing up in North Carolina in the 1980s.
The law completely reforms the state’s foster care system, reorganizing county social services to prevent cases like Rylan’s from happening again.
The purpose of the law, said Barringer, is to provide a high quality standard of care and support for foster children and families in North Carolina and create accountability and transparency for that standard.
A former foster parent, Barringer has championed this legislation and has been working to improve foster care for several years. She has previously said that she’s been frustrated by the inadequacies and lapses in North Carolina’s system.
During the celebration, Barringer thanked everyone, including organizations and General Assembly members on both sides of the aisles, for their help with the law.
“This is not a partisan issue,” she said. “This is a people issue.
“Families and youth and children, you’re the big part of this,” she said later. “So keep us in the loop, let us know your needs, your wishes.”
In the driver’s seat
Barringer said her favorite part of the bill is that foster children can now attend Driver’s Ed and learn to drive. That opportunity is important to youth everywhere, but foster children missed out in the previous system.
Goings was first introduced to Driver’s Ed when she was in a group home, but the group home director didn’t allow to her participate. Later, Goings moved into a foster home with a family and was earning money, but her foster mom declined her request for permission to learn to drive.
“The face she gave me was like, ‘Are you serious? You think I’m going to put my name down for something for you?’” Goings said. “I don’t want to say that it was embarrassing for me tell my peers that I can’t go to Driver’s Ed, or I can’t drive, or I can’t get in the vehicle with you because I’m a foster child. But it wasn’t easy.”
Along with reforming the system, the law creates a two-year $75,000 pilot program to reimburse the cost of getting driver’s licenses and insurance for children in foster care.
Goings said she appreciates this law because it will give foster youth the opportunity to show leadership, responsibility and maturity, while also bringing awareness to the community and others about foster children.
“A foster child can follow rules, we can listen to authority, we are adamant and passionate about certain things that involve us, and we can do it,” Goings said. “I thank you guys so much, not for me but for my sisters and brothers, for my adopted son, and for all the other foster youth that I speak out and make change about.”