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tv   Rob Scheer A Forever Family  CSPAN  August 17, 2019 12:41am-1:23am EDT

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>> good morning everybody welcome to the book festival. [applause] to proudly support the arts in the humanities thanks in part to generous support from our sponsors and volunteers we are most lee volunteers please say
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thank you to them foror volunteering a today i am the workshop chair for the eastival for adults and teens. and also of the author of the back seat. you havear the announcement silence all of your devices and we hope you are following us on facebook and twitter and instagram when you folk post about the festival please use #gbs. your v feedback is valuable so when you areen done with your time here please drop those offse by submitting a survey you
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will get a $100 visa gift card. rob will be signing books immediately after the presentation and copies of the s book are on sale at the politics and prose book and a quick word about buying books , this is a free event but it does help if you buy books from the festival because the more books we can sell the more the book publishers want to sell one - - send them to talk to us but also helps to support one of the greatest independent bookstores around so if you can please buy a book so let me tell you about rob i know him because five
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years ago he and his family walked into my church. were small church at the united methodist church and i'm not going to lie when we first saw them walk in we all stared at them. we were confused, we didn't know who they were or what was going on with two rather tall white men with short african-american children and it quickly turned to admiration. and they walk the talk and carried off with an amazing amount of grace as they are very patient with those of us who might stare. along with his husband the cofounder whose mission is to bring dignity and hope to foster care when they began to
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share our building and volunteer our resources we were all in on this worthy cause of the mission and now years later they have grown and all across the country and rob will tell you how and where. seen them tell their story on a national platform on the today show, alan and a generous, new shows, all over the internet. and wang getting noticed for this great charity, the thing that intrigued the people was his personal story how he overcame such a difficult childhood to turn his life
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into joy. this memoir forever family is that story and for me personally we live in a place the sheer six are part of the diverse church family is another reason why i love gaithersburg. andhi now allow me to introduce doug sheer. [applause] >> good morning. how humbling. this is my community. i am so absolutely proud to be here today i'm proud of the fact they called me, a goat farmer from maryland and a father of four kids you want
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to hear me talk. as a kid who grew up on the streets to tell you a story i lived every day. the youngest of ten kids. my mother was married six times we lived in every shelter in virginia and maryland and dc my earliest memory was my father nearing us down to put a gun to our heads and pulling the trigger and he would laugh and say i wonder whichch was a peon themselves first. that was family. that's how we lived every singlele day i remember he would sit in his chair and scream out for one of us kids and if we didn't run fast enough to get a beer we knew what would happen the cigarette that would touch our leg and the burn mark it would make 52
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years old they still have scars from my father not just inside but physically on my body s. my life was really rough i knew i deserved a better even at a young age i would say there has to be something more than this. little did i know when i turned 12 years old my parents would die. i was so excited. [laughter] how sad to have a child who is excited for the death of their parents but i thought i will never be abused again i will never have to worry about the sacrifice that we made per i was 12 years old and still never had a birthday i don't remember a christmas tree or 12 years old with no pictures on a wall i never had my own
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bike or team sports i was never allowed to do anything because we were the poor fafamily. when i went into foster care i thought this would be a big change and i was excited i remember walking up the driveway to carry a trashbag. i didn't realize there was anything wrong with this because that's a we carried from shelter too shelter i remember walking up to the's and she said he doesn't even have decent close to where to church tomorrow and looked at me and said you really need to get in the shower she the door behind me at that point i knew my life was different because the irish spring bar of soap.ff [laughter] that will never be in my thhouse.
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that truly defined the fact i was a kid in the system everybody expected me to get into the shower and forget the fact what is their middle name or what color do they like they are living with people they do not know and expect them to assimilate without giving them any consideration of the fact they deserve dignity and to have their own bar of soap they shouldn't have to ask we should provide that for them. so that stuck in the back of my mind but i wanted to be a good kid i wanted a family to want me because by the way at the age of 12 i was already losing my other brothers and sisters by the time i turned
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18 the other were only five of us left the others word dead as suicide or drugs one who has chosen to be homeless and a sister in and out of every psychiatric hospital and another one in prison so those that come because of choices other people made 438,000 kids in foster care. do you realize only 54 percent graduate from high school? only 11 percent apply to college and only 3 percent will get a college education. this year alone 30000 children will age out in 70 percent will be homeless within two years. i remember that i was a senior in high school the fall of my senior year i turn 18 i was pretty excited because i made
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it that far. i was actually a senior in high school. it was a little rough but i was okay with a roof and a family i knew that loved me until two weeks after my 18th birthday and then i received this. i remember receiving my trashbag and no longer allowed in their home because the check stopped. that happened so many times in our system. we are making money on the backs of children for way too many years ago i became homeless i will never forget the first night hiding my trashbag behinder the bush at school going in with my head held high thinking that i deserve this. every single day i would walk down the hall and hope the kids would make fun of me for the holes in my shoes because by the way my pearly whites
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you don't have to tell me they cost me an arm and a leg because nobody gave me a toothbrush. that isn't acceptable every day i went to school into the lunch room and dig through the trash grab as much food as i could to put in my a backpack because i didn't know if i would eat that night if i wasn't working my three dollars and are at the taco place that was kind enough to leave the outside door unlocked for me so i couldt. sleep i would spend my time in a public library and read every single book i could get my hands on. books were my escape to fall into them and forget everything around me. at 9:00 o'clock every night the librarian which at me on
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my shoulder and say it's closing time. would go outside and grab my trashbag and go to the taco place and wake up the next morning do my homework and then walked back to school. my day-to-day life. in the spring of 1985 time for graduation the saddest time in my life. i was sad because eight hours a day i had a roof over my head. i got at least one meal a day. all of that would go away. i remember sitting in the english class my name was called over the loudspeaker and they said somebody will talk to me about the fact that i'm homeless and look at me and say you matter they never
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look at me they would look through me they never had eye contact because if you me then you have to realize that you failed me. i walked down to the principal's office and as i stand there thinking they will put me in a group home, make me switch schools last two months, but at least i will be in a bed. he said you're going on the senior trip. know i'm not. i cannot afford to pay for that he said somebody paid for you and handed me an envelope it was $75 they also wanted you to have spending money. i will never forget that day that somebody stepped up to realize i do exist. they knew me to pay for my trip and give me pocket money. that gave me a bit of energy to get to the last month for i
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graduated from high school walking across the stage to receive my diploma and the status kid in the world because i was like what the hell will i do now? i knew where the shelter was perk i knew the fact i could do it most people expected me to do that involves drugs and be the kid that doesn't amount to anything and be the statistic two out of three kids in foster care will be dead or in jail. i wasn't going to be that number so i joined the military and made something of myself and became a successful businessman and never looked back the golden ring i was trying to grab the fastest car the most money in my bank account more than any other foster kid live in the biggest house to look at that successful by that's what i thought was important until
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ten years ago 14 of the most amazing kids from the foster care system came in carrying this. i will never forget that night. my daughterev was four years old. she was the cutest little girl but the saddest little girl we went shopping we were grabbing toys and everything we could get our hands on and she never smiled. i said i'm the happiest guy in the world because i'm finally a dad but to the saddest little girl in the world. she got out of the bathtub and laid on the bed were three nightgowns a she trough the tag and smiled for the very first time i said why are you smiling? she said i have never owned a new nightgownn before. that is not acceptable.
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she was in her third home no way should they not have their own brand-new pair of pajamas. her little brother arrived with who was two years old and he would never talk and probably never walk he said are you sure you want this one like he was a piece of clothing. he was in three other homes with open bed sores from a mother who gave birth to him and put him in a crib and did not pick him up for 18 months. he was lost but we needed him and he needed us we became a family of four so little did i know three months later i would receive two more beautiful gifts another son grayson who was two years old and his mother was 12 by the way. he came into the system with bleeding of the brain was shaken baby and then they gave
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him back and then she broke his ribs. three of them. he arrived withth his baby brother was six months old and again in two other homes and still carrying this. he had a scar on his chest where his mother had taken a razor blade to carve her boyfriend's initials. by the way she was 14. she was part of the system. by the way she was our child. the fact is these kids who are in the system belong to us. they belong to each and every one of us. these are not bad kids. there is no such thing as a bad kid but only a child who needs to be redirected. to be a family of six it would take a lot of work but we were in it to make sure these kids had a chance. we were in it to make sure
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they knew they mattered. life was tough. all of a sudden living in the city and now a familyys of six with three in diapers. most of you had nine months to prepare and we had three. but we did it you just get up in the morning and look at my son and say we know you are in their we would move his arms and legs and we would go to daycare and move his arms and legs and the social worker asays he will never talk or walk. why are you doing this? we said because he deserves it. every day we just barely got by. we moved out of dc to the most amazing place we could ever dream of.
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who thought to white guys and for black kids i remember he said you do know what we look like? he said we will make this happen. we walkedhi in to the elementary school and met the principal for the first time and said i have to tell you we don't have any families that look like you but we are excited. we were excited you and a i said the changes that had to be made immediately and she said who are you? and i set a loudmouth. we no longer have muffins for moms that has nothing to do with the fact they don't have a mother but all the children who had lost their mother to cancer, diseases, and every time you say let's do muffins for mom you remind that child they don't have a mom that theyey are different. du as adults should never do
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that also donuts for dads those who have lost their fathers to the war, a war that adults go to in children don't understand that we stick them in a school and remind them we are having donuts for dads and my dad is dead by the way. we can't do that i was so excited not only the pta said we will eliminatee that food for families and donuts for an event muffins for mustangs but we have a community that loves us and by the way the community is not your zip code but a human race what affects me and my little town in maryland affects those in
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austin texas or los angeles. we have to realize our forefathers built communities to take care of each other. we have forgotten that along the way but we didn't want to forget it so five years ago we were barely getting by my husband came home from work and said he didn't want to do this anymore. i thought it was time for a divorce. [laughter] i didn't know if gays could be divorced he said i don't want to go to work every day i want to be a stay-at-home dad so we switch things around. two weeks later i come home from work he hands me an article and says read this so a little girl adopted out of foster care whose parents wanted her to achieve and she has what my son has fetal alcohol syndrome. there's nothing you can give them, no pill so they decided
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to take a risk and buy a farm and raise the little girl around farm animals and it is amazing what she is doing i said what an amazing article and said there's five farms for sale and we literally bought a farm moving from one side to the next we had we got goats and chickens we even have a pig named penelope but the most amazing thi i have a son who will walk up to you and say hi. not only has chicken under his arm but knows the name of every chicken that reads on a fourth grade level. i have a son who teaches me every day to be a better human. kids are resilient. kids are our future and i know that when i see my four beautiful children. we didn't stop there.
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so then you go by needy kids toys we pat ourselves on the back but then we wake up the day after and we don't think about the kids. i really wanted to show my children as leaders we don't have the right to sit on the sidelines to watch the game being played we must play it. 's y-letter decided we would put cases together throw them into the dc system as well but we wanted to make sure the kids in my community which i thought it was but i was schooled by my daughter that are community is not her zip coded on - - zip code and then we had 500 cases handed them out toow montgomery county an amazing woman named barbara harris and said come to an award and present you for the fact you did this with nobody asking. i said i'm a banker and sit behind a desk.
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i had told my story in public. but for some reason i was moved that morning to tell my story and when i did the next thing you know she took out her phone and videotaped it and it was amazing. the next thing you know we were an internet sensation. 150million people viewed the video. i couldn't believe they wanted to hear our story but we would make change so we started to pack more cases every case gets a brand-new parrotac pajamas with a tag and a toothbrus toothbrush, lotion, shampoo, cor in a bar off soap and a book. there's no such thing as a used book but only one that has been loved. we also make sure every case gets an activity under ten get
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a coloring book and crayon over ten get a journal and pen and pencil set. last year filming a cnn special a 13 -year-old boy pulled out his journal and started to cry. asked him why he said i have been in 11 homes in three years. i have had all this music in my mind and i've always wanted a journal to write it in. he could be the next beethoven. the kid deserves us. and a blanket because my son grayson who was six years old at the time said we have to put a blanket and every case these kids are not cold he said no every time they wrap themselves up they know we love them. that's what we all want at the end of the day for we want to matter so that movement started and we have not stopped we have given out
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55000 cases in 50 states including dc and puerto rico and i'll have to remind you smart people puerto rico belongs to us i understand it is surrounded by water but so is hawaii. [laughter] we must take care of her own .nd the children in the system we are 95 percent volunteer ran charity with no corporate sponsors. we want them that we have none but we have you. people who buy her book to help support or charity we only have four employees and i'm not one ofbo them. this is what we should be doing is a community so make it cash flow - - make it count when you walk through the graveyard we are all given one year you are born the year that you die and the - - in between. make that count for me i want it to mean everything i want
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people to look back and say he did it. make your - - count and if you cannot foster then volunteer. we need you. thank you so much. [applause] >> that's so humbling.
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>> what an amazing inspirational story with your challenging and difficult life you're such an inspiration. very touched your book what is naincredible and now to hear you in person so it resonated the morning the moms from a moms for muffins and donuts for dad this is what my two daughters experienced and never gave it a second thought but now you just reminded me my dad passed away on - - my grandfather
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said father's day was the saddest day for him exactly what you are saying so had that message been shared beyond the school because that is an important message to think of the sensitivity of young children and how do you strike the right balance because to play devils advocate that everything can be interpreted negatively or emotionally to a child and how do you respond i understand we are sensitive and it's a fine line but also when it comes to children by the way they do not do this in high school they don't have muffins were lucky to even look at us.
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but as an elementary school child we have to start them off the right way and they have to feel included so to change one small thing and not say muffins for moms and not daughter daddy dance but a dance of butterflies or a dance of heroes. maccabee anybody. there are things that we could change to truly help children and i believe so many times the children are like this because they feel so isolated and if we continue we will have a bigger issue. but i do see change across the country. one of the things about comfort cases we embed ourselves into schools because kids helping kids is truly
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what will make the world better letting them understand about the foster care system giving a voice is so important so thank you for your question. >> go vegan? i cannot do it. [laughter] >> that is inspirational and you talk about the cut off so what recommendations would you make to policy makers to make it more humane? >> thank you for that question there's two things we need to change senator snow is walking around here and she will jump on board with me because this is our state i want to see other states look at us and say we are doing it right because right now we are not. the fact is those that have
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any concept how shattered the system is when a child enters the foster care system in montgomery county because the mother or father abused them or did whatever they had to do to get them back and then they moved to west virginia then nobody talks to each other so that child can go to another area and be put in the house and never brought out and nobody is there to check if inat child even exist. we first have to come together and talk one language that is the safety of the children in the system. second, we must absolutely set the children up for financial success. we can give parents stipends may give them a check by the way the state of maryland is one of the highest paid the next is arizona those two are
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the highest guess so much money the kid gets? zero dollars and when the child turns 19 and ages out they receive nothing. we need to take that stipend to put it in a savings account to set them up for success and by the way i'm not saying cut them a check because we know how teenagers are but give them a safety net give them help with first months rent or a deposit on a car but what we would give her own children and finally open the pathway for education for these kids we all know that's what separates each and every one of us whether a trade school or four-year college we have to make sure they have complete wraparound services
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my husband and i have a gala for comfort cases we bring so many people together tonight we have 300 people that would be at the bethesda marriott we give out a scholarship to two people who are in the system aging out that will go on toto more education. but we give them a small box and it's my housekeeper go when they go to college they close and they end up in a shelter last year a recipient came and stayed with us at the farm and he felt he had a home and he does but we need other people to help because the wraparound services are what these kids need. arthank you for your question.
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>> thank you so much. i have been inspired. how do we get involved in comfort cases? >> comfort cases.org we have a center right across the street from the nordstrom's rack in home depot the center is open seven days a week you have evening ace hours you log in and sign up as a volunteer. we have no age restrictions so we have little ones to come in mad pack cases and a woman i think she will be 101 and her daughter brings her. this is a charity we all can get involved. the next time you go to the hotel don't use it but bring it back for comfort cases if
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you set at home and realize your children have more books than they need we could use them if you go to the pratt coffee shop go to target and buy awh pair of pajamas with the tag you could really make the difference in a child's life. comfort cases.org. >> two years ago i was humbled to be on the l and a generous show sheth gave me $50000 and said change or charity i said are you kidding? i'm working a full-time job running a charity i came back from the west coast and talking to my family and say we have to make a difference so we got the volunteers to gather are we eliminating the
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trashbags? so i can find a 32-inch duffel bag that folds up to the size the book the lightbulb went off and this will eliminate trashbags so we started the comfort xl program giving out 25000 comfort xl all over the united states now people in kentucky carry them in their trunks i meeting with the first lady of texas because she is committed she will eliminate trashbags for the state. right here in montgomery county we deliver on demand if i receive a call at 2:00 a.m. i will make sure itr arrives. we must do this together. we must all realize we cannot wait for the government to make a change. we have to do it. i know that next year after the 270,000 children that will
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enter foster care all receive a comfort xl i will walk on the steps of capitol hill to show them what communities really do togetheril. children don't care if you are redd or blue but that you make the matter. >> how many cases in a month? >> in five years we have done 55000 cases that's a lot let me pay for our own shipping this year alone we have done almost 20000 we will end up the year with about 40000 this year the demand is crazy it's so sad but i travel the country and i get to talk to kids in the system i spoke to a little boy but he was 16 i
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say little by the way virginia has one of the worst foster care systems in the united states and i remind the politicians of that every singlevisy day but the fact he said to me i thought we were supposed to carry trashbags. while. not acceptable. thank you so much thank you for coming out to live your community is much as i do and remember each and every one of us can do the following three things use your listening ears every single person that your meet has a story you never know how that will impact your life always use kind words we have never changed anything with hateful words but the most important thing you can do is lead by example.
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thank you. [applause] [inaudible conversations]

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