People, regardless of who they are, where they were born, the color of their skin or the culture of their family deserve to feel loved and safe from the day they enter the world. If that cannot be provided by the family of origin, the child should be placed with a family ready and eager to do so. Sadly, unless the child is a healthy infant, it becomes extraordinarily complex to place them. They are thrown into a system where almost everyone treats them as a number. Most kids in foster never get adopted. The chances of being adopted after the age of 10 drops 50%. Many are treated like a helpless object to be done with as the supervisors see fit. I have never personally been in that situation as a child, but I have a vivid, emotional imagination.

The foster care system really needs a new title. To foster implies to affectionally supervise and encourage. It does happen and those good foster parents are doing God’s work and know how important it is. However, more often than not, we hear the horror story cases or worse; we hear nothing at all. People are oblivious to the problem because largely, nobody discusses it. Not religious organizations, the television news or our own government. It’s time they step it up.

Today is the one year anniversary of the real beginning of the KINDRED campaign and the incorporation of Hoover Drive Productions. It is also my mother’s birthday. One year ago today, something happened that changed my life so profoundly it even changed the way I feel about today. It is now a day to be celebrated, possibly with a loud, grateful thank you and yee-ha shouted at the unusual full super-moon tonight. Last year, my mom gave us a gift for her birthday. It happened in a way that no Hollywood hack has come up with yet. It all ties together. Without Zena, my beautiful mom, none of this would be happening so I must pause to give her credit.

She did it through an anonymous donor who gave $9000, the seed money we were asking for, a year ago today. My curiosity about the identity of this generous individual is something I have had to learn how to manage. Come on, wouldn’t you want to know. But instead I channeled the curiosity into pure gratitude and mostly left it alone. I feel the intense curiosity for the same reason I feel the loving need to help kids in foster care and around the world in any way I can; because my mother raised me that way.

Zena had a unique mix of personality traits. Even though I lost my father before I was two, I had the greatest parent in the world. She lived through the horrors of incest molestation in her own home and vowed it would never happen to me. The abuse and suicide of my once great father. The loneliness of feeling that nobody would ever truly love her and her friends not being around when she needed them most. She instilled in me a great compassion for those in need, an inquisitive mind enforced to question everything, including authority when ingenuine or abused, and as she put it many, many times, “I raised you to be able to handle anything.” She taught me how to adapt and when necessary, disassociate.

It’s bittersweet. I miss her like mad and the home I had before her death dissolved it. My son left his bedroom door unlocked last night which is unusual since he is 14. I opened the door half-way and watched him sleeping. I thought about how in love with him she would have been. Grateful for the guardian angel factor she has provided like keeping us out of the World Trade Center and protecting him in a bad car accident he was taken out of without a scratch. Then it felt like she was standing there with me, close, her chin on my shoulder looking at him too. I felt a surge of warm fuzzy love in my belly like when she hugged me when I was little.

One of the things that I am proudest of is that we have taken the knowledge gained through tragedy and are using it, turning it into strength and motivation to put this situation in foster care on the front page of urgent issues. What she taught me and many of my friends was how to fight for our safety and make light of everything. If you can laugh at it, even if it’s not funny, you can survive it. That’s why when I’m not talking about or working on the project, I’m balancing by acting like a buffoon. I snort when I laugh, I tell bad, bad jokes. I recognize almost all obscure humor and use it often. When I arrive at Disney World, we live nearby, I kid-out and make a run for Main Street. Actually, I skip!

Gratitude. The point is gratitude. Gratitude for the centuries of ancestors who lived so that I now live. Gratitude for the woman who brought me into the world and loved me with everything she had. Gratitude for our angel donor who saw our green yet earnest campaign and decided to have faith in us. Gratitude for all of the donations of funds, time, services, equipment, transportation, hosting and participants in the production of KINDRED. Huge gratitude for the time and trust of the brave people who have revealed their most intimate vulnerability to me on camera with the promise that it will be used wisely. Lastly, I’m grateful for all of you. Our mission is impossible without support and we have received some of the most lovely compliments and encouragement. Please keep it coming. We have miles to go and whether we sprint, skip, roll, step, limp or crawl, we will cross the finish line.

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