tv Rob Scheer A Forever Family CSPAN August 17, 2019 5:22am-6:06am EDT
are we going to be okay? good morning, everybody. welcome to the 10th annual gaithersburg book festival. please clap. that is wonderful. gaithersburg is a city that supports the arts and humanities and we are pleased to bring this fabulous event to generous support from our sponsors and volunteers. we are mostly volunteer run so when you see someone with a name tag and pink shirt say thank you to them for volunteering today. my name idsassi is.
the book tent is by the book signing area. if you want to drop by. i'm the author of the novel start with a backseat which came out a couple years ago. a few housekeeping announcements. silence all of your devices and we hope you are following on facebook, twitter and instagram. when you post about the festival please use the hashtag dbf. your feedback is very valuable and surveys are available at the tent. this tent over here and every tens really. when you are done with your time here, please drop those off or you can visit the website "after words". you will be answered in a drawing to get a $100 visa gift card so that is a great thing. rob will be signing books immediately after this presentation and copies of his
book are on sale right there and a quick word about buying books. this is a free event but it does help the book festival if you buy books from the festival because the more books we can sell it our events more publishers will want to send their authors to talk to us in purchasing books from our partners at politics and prose help support one of the greatest independent bookstores around and benefits our local economy. if you can, please buy a book here today, at least one, maybe more. let me tell you about rob scheer. i know rob because 5 years ago he and his family walked into my church, a small church on route 28, united methodist church. i'm not going to lie to you. when we saw them walk in we all
stared at them. we were confused. we didn't know who they were or what was going on. there were two rather tall white men with four african-american children but our confusion quickly turned to admiration. rob and his husband adopted children who need a loving home and they walked the talk and carry it off with an amazing amount of grace and they are very patient with those of us who at first might stare. along with his husband, reese, rob is the cofounder of comfort cases, whose mission is to inspire communities to bring dignity and hope to foster care. when they began, our church members and friends shared our buildings, volunteered our resources and we were all in on this worthy cause in support of the mission.
years later they have grown and they are all across the country as rob will tell you how and where. you might have seen them tell their story on national platforms. ey were on the today show. the ellen degeneres show. various news shows. all over the internet. you may have heard of them before and when they were getting noticed by the public media for this great charity, the thing that intrigued the people they met, tv producers, website people, was rob's personal story which brought him to start these cases in the first place. how he overcame such a difficult childhood and youth and turned his life into one of joy and giving. this memoir is that story and for me personally the fact that we live in a place where the
sheer 6 are a normal part of our diverse church family and of my loving community, another reason i love gaithersburg. to tell his story allow me to introduce rob scheer. >> good morning. how humbling. this is my town. this is my community. i am so absolutely proud to be here today. i'm proud they called me ago farmer from maryland, a father of four kids. and. as a homeless kid who grew up in the streets of northern virginia.
and and my mother was married, shetler in virginia, and kneeling us kids down, and putting guns to our heads and putting a cold trigger that we hear a click and he would laugh and say i wonder which op on themselves first. that was family. that is where we lived every day. my father would sit in his chair and scream out for one of his kids. he wouldn't run fast enough to get beer out of the refrigerator. we knew what was going to happen, the cigarette that was going to touch our leg and the burn mark it would make. i am 52 years old and still have scars from my father. not just the scars that are inside but the scars that are physically you can see on my body.
life was really rough. i know i deserved better. even at a young age i could see other families and think to myself there has got to be something more than this. little did i know when i turned 12 years old my parents would die. i was so excited. how sad is that, to have a child who is excited for the death of their parents but i thought to myself i will never be abused again, never have to worry about the sacrifices all kids made. i was 12 years old at that point and never had a birthday. i was 12 years old and never remembered a christmas tree going up in my home. i was 12 years old, pictures being on a wall. and i never did team sports. we were of a poor family. when i went into foster care i
thought this is going to be a big change for me and i was pretty excited. i remember walking up the driveway carrying this. i didn't really realize there was anything wrong with this because it is what we carry all the time from shelter to shelter but i remember walking into the house, the lady pulling stuff out of the trash bag and saying to her husband he doesn't even have any decent clothes to wear to church tomorrow. i remember looking at me saying you need to get in the shower. she walked me down the hallway, opened the bathroom door and closed the bathroom door behind me. at that moment as a 12-year-old boy, i knew my life was different, i knew it was different because of the irish spring bar of soap shooting in the shower. that would never be in my house. that irish spring bar of soap defined the fact that i was a kid in the system. everybody expected me to get into the shower, grab that bar
of soap, lather my body up and forget what were their middle names? what color do they like? kids in the foster care system, and we expect them to assimilate into their family without giving them any consideration of the fact that they deserve dignity, to have their own bar of soap. they should not have to ask for it. we should have provided it for them. that bar of soap really stuck in the back of my mind but you know what? i wanted to be a good kid. i wanted a family to love me. i wanted teachers to say what a great kid he was. at the age of 12 i was already losing my other brothers and sisters. the time i turned 18 there were only 5 of us left. the other 5 had died due to drug overdose, suicide, right now i have a brother that served life in prison, another chooses to be homeless and a sister in and out of every psychiatric hospital in
maryland, virginia and dc. kids in the system coming to the system because of choices other people made. we have 438,000 kids in foster care. do you realize only 54% of them will graduate from high school? 11% of them apply to college and 3% will get a college education. this year alone in our country we will see 30,000 children age out of the foster care system. 70% of them will be homeless within two years. i remember that. i was a senior in high school the fall of my senior year, i turned 18. i was pretty excited because i had made it that far, pretty excited i was actually a senior in high school. life was a little rough but it was okay because i had a roof over my head, a family i truly knew loved me and two weeks
after my 18th birthday i turned 18 and received this. i remember coming home and receiving my trash bag. i was no longer allowed in their home because the checks stopped. that happened so many times in our system. we had been making money on the backs of children for too many years. for me i became homeless. i will never forget that first night. i will never forget hiding my trash bag behind the bushes in school and going into school with my head held high and thinking i deserved this. every single day i would go to school. i would walk down the halls and hope kids would make fun of me because the holes in my shoes, make fun of me because my beautiful pearly whites, they are beautiful, you don't have to tell me. they cost me an arm and a leg because nobody bothered to stop to give me something like a toothbrush.
that is not acceptable. every day i would go into the lunch room and wait until kids left the lunchroom and, grab as much food as i can, and in the evening times, 300 $.30 an hour at the taco place which were kind enough to leave the outside door locks for me at night. i would spend time in the public library. i would read every book i could take my hands on. for me, books were my sk. a label to fall into them, and everything that was around me, i remember at 9:00 every night when i was there the librarian would tap me on my shoulder and say it is closing time. i would walk down route 28, and go to the taco place and sleep
there and wake up the next morning and pushed up against the door and walk back to school. that was a day-to-day life for me. it was spring of 1985 and time for graduation. the saddest time in my life. the reason i was so sad is for 8 hours a day, i had a roof over my head. i remember sitting in mrs. brown and english class and my name got called over the loudspeaker. and someone is finally going to look at me and say you matter. before -- they looked through me. didn't have i contact with me because if you acknowledged me, and failed me. i walked to the principal's office, and mister thompson's office and standing there thinking they are going to put
me in a group home, and make me switch schools the last 2 months and at least i am going to be in a bid. you are going on the senior trip. i couldn't afford to pay for that. somebody paid for you. and handed me an envelope. $75, and had spending money. and and paid for my trip. and graduated from high school. and receiving my diploma and i was the saddest kid in the world. i was like what am i going to do now. i knew where the shoulder was.
and do what most people expected me to do, get involved in drugs and be the kid that didn't amount to anything, be the statistic we see, two of three kids in foster care would be dead or in jail. dead or in jail. i joined the military, made something of myself, a successful businessman. and never looked back. the golden when i was trying to grab, having the fastest car, and the most money in my bank account, more than any foster kid would have, the biggest house in dc and think, look at that successful guy. that is what i think was important until ten years ago, the most amazing kids walked into my life. four the most amazing kids in the foster care system came in carrying this. i will never forget that night. my daughter was 4 years old.
the saddest little girl, we went shopping that day and i remember we were grabbing toys, everything we could get our hands on and by a never smiled. i remember saying i'm the happiest guy in the world because i am finally a dad but i am a dad to the saddest little girl in the world. she got out of the bathtub and walked to her bedroom and lying on the bed were three nightgowns. she picked one up, for the tag off and smiled for the very first time. i remember saying why are you smiling? she said mister rob, i never owned a new nightgown before. that is not acceptable. we were her third home. no way should a child not have their own brand-new parent pajamas. her little brother arrived with her, he was 2 years old and they told us he was never going to talk and would probably never walk.
i remember the social worker handing them to us saying are you sure you want this one, piece of clothing? he had been in 3 other homes before he arrived in our home. he had open bedsores from a mother who gave birth to him and put him in a crib and didn't pick him up for 18 months. he was lost. he needed us as much as we needed him. we became a family of 4. little that i know that three months later i would receive two more beautiful gifts. my amazing son grayson who is 2 years old. his mother was 12. he came into the system the first time with bleeding of the brain and 8 months later they gave him back and broke his ribs, not one, not 2, but three. not only did he arrived arrived
with his baby brother tristan and they had been in 2 other homes and still carrying this. tristan had a scar on his chest, a scar where his mother had taken a razor blade and carved her boyfriend's initials. by the way, she was 14. by the way, she was part of the system. by the way, she was your child. she was my child. she was our child. these kids who were in the system belong to us. they belong to each and everyone of us. these are not bad kids. there is no such thing as a bad kid, only a child who needs to be redirected. i knew at that moment, it would take a lot of work but we are in it to make sure these kids had a chance and to make sure they knew they mattered. we were two guys living in the city and we were a family of 6 with 3 in diapers.
most had 9 months to prepare, we had three but we did it. we would get up in the morning, and we will look at my son and say we know you are in there. we would move his arms and legs, we work at lunchtime and go to his daycare and move his arms and legs and the social worker would say the doctors say he is never going to talk or walk, why are you doing this? because he deserves it. we were barely getting by. we moved out of dc, the most amazing place you could ever dream of, darnstown, maryland. with things we to white guys and two white kids living in donstown. you do know what we look like, right? he says we are going to make this happen.
the principal - i remember her saying i have to tell you we don't have any families that look like you but we are excited. we are excited too. there were some changes that had to be made immediately and she said who are you? i said a loudmouth. i said we have to make sure we no longer have muffins for moms was nothing to do with the fact my children don't have a mother but has to do with the fact that all the children in the school who lost their mother to cancer, lost cancer to diseases and let's do muffins for moms, your mind the child they don't have a mom. your mind that child they are different. we as adults should never do that and we do not do donuts for dads. the number of kids who lost their fathers to the war, to
the war, a war that adults go to, the children don't understand and stick them in a school and remind them we are having donuts for dads. my dad said we can't do that. i was so excited that not only the pta but miss bulguri said we are not going to do that. we have donuts for darnstown and fruit families. we are pretty lucky. we have muffins for mustangs but the fact is we have what i always knew we would have. the community. a community that loves us and by the way your community is not your zip code. it is your human race is what affects me in my little town of darnstown maryland affect austin, texas or la. we have to realize our forefathers build communities for only one reason and that was for us to take care of each other. we got that along the way.
we didn't want to forget it but 5 years ago when we were barely getting by my husband came home from work and said he didn't want to do this anymore and i was like divorce time. i didn't know if gaves got divorced at that point but i was like he said no, i don't want to go to work every day worrying about the other kids. i want to be a stay-at-home dad so we changed things around and he became a stay-at-home dad. then i come home from work and he hands me an article and says read this. i read about a little girl adopted out of foster care whose parents wanted her to achieve. she had what my son has which is fetal alcohol syndrome. your frontal lobe never develops, things you can give them, no pill that will make it better. the family decided to take the risk and buy a farm and raised this little girl around farm animals and it was amazing what she was doing. i said what an amazing article.
we literally bought a farm, we go from one side of darnstown to the next and got some goats and chickens and even a pig named penelope. the most amazing thing, mckay will walk up to you and say hi. he only has a chicken under his arm and knows all the names to every chicken but read 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. we were doing what most of you do during the holidays. you go and buy the needy kids toys. most of us pat ourselves on the back and feel good for the toys we bought but then wake up the day after our holiday and don't think anything about those kids. i wanted to show my children
that as leaders we don't have the right to sit on the sidelines and watch a game being played. i decided to put some cases together from montgomery county and throw some cases into dc because that's where my children came from but we wanted to make sure the kids in my community. that is what i thought my community was. i was schooled by my daughter to remind me the community is not our zip code but our human race and we put some cases together, 200 came to 300 and thing you know, 500 cases, we handed them out to montgomery county and dc and an amazing woman named barbara harrison said i would like you to come to an award in dc and present you with an award for the fact you did this with nobody asking the diameter banker, i sit behind the desk. if you want to hear me talk, okay. i had not really told my story in public, my husband knew my story and my close friends but for some reason i was moved that morning to tell my story and the next thing you know,
barbara harrison had taken out her phone and videotaped it and it was absolutely amazing. next thing you know we became an internet sensation. 150 million people viewed our video. i cannot believe they wanted to hear our store but we decided we would make this a movement. we were going to make change so we started packing more cases. every case gets a new of pajamas with a tag. every case gets a toothbrush, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, bar of soap. we give every case a book, i don't believe there is anything -- any such thing as a used book. only book that has been loved. that's why we write books and make sure everyone gets an activity. kids under the age of 10 get a coloring book in crayons and a journal, pen and pencil set. last year when i was filming a cnn special, a 9-year-old boy
pulled out his journal and started to cry. i asked him why he was crying. i have been 11 homes in three years and had all this music in my mind and always wanted a journal to write it in. he could be our next beethoven. the kid deserves us. then we put a blanket, because my son grayson who was 6 years old at the time. we have to put a blanket in every single case. these kids are not cold. he said no, every time they wrap themselves up in their blanket, we -- they know we love them. that is what we all want, we want to be loved. we want to matter. that movement started and we haven't stopped. we have given out 55,000 cases in 50 states including dc and puerto rico. i don't have remind you puerto rico belongs to us. it is surrounded by water but
so is hawaii. we must take care of our own. we must take care of children in the system. we are 95% volunteer run charity in rockville, maryland. we have no corporate sponsors. we want them but have none. what we have is you. we have people that buy our books. it helps support our charity. we have four employees and i'm not one of them. this is something we should be doing as a community. make your das h county. when you walk through a graveyard we have all given one. the year you are born, the year you died and there is a dash in between. for me, i want my dash to mean everything. i want people to say he actually did it. make your dash county. if you can't foster and adopt, volunteer.
volunteer. we need you. thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you so much. [applause] >> thank you. we have some time. thank you. so humbling. we have time for some questions. do we have time? we have time for questions, wait until the mike gets to you. does anybody have any questions? i hope you all become my friend. you want me to sit down? perfect, perfect. any questions? nice.
>> what an amazing, inspirational story to turn around your challenging and difficult life to such an inspirational story. very touched. your book was incredible. hearing a person equally impressed. what resonated with me when you talked about moms from evans and donuts for dads, by two.is experienced in montgomery county public schools never gave it a second thought but you reminded me my dad, my grandfather passed away, my dad was four and he shared with me many years ago which i had forgotten about father's day was the saddest day of the year for him. has that message been shared
beyond the school and in other districts. an important message to think about the sensitivity of young children and the impression and how do you strike the right balance. and to play devils advocate and others say everything can be interpreted negatively, emotionally to a child, how do you respond to that? >> we are seeing change throughout the country. we are all sensitive and it is a real fine line but when it comes to children, they do not do this in high school. they don't have muffins. we are lucky they look at us in high school but as an elementary school child, we have to start them off the right way and that means they have to feel included.
not say muffins for moms and donuts for dads, why not have a dance of heroes? your hero can be your dad and grandfather, anybody. there are things we can change that could help children, give them -- so many times children are like this. they feel so isolated. we have a bigger issue. i would like to see more. one of the things i love about comfort cases is we are embedding ourselves into schools.
any other questions? go vegan. can't do it. >> it is really inspirational. you talk about the pain caused by the checks being off, what recommendation, and senator snow, this is a state i want to see other states look at and say we are doing it right. we are not. the fact is i don't think you have any concept of how shattered the system is. when a child enters the foster care system in montgomery county and they into the system because their mother or father abused them. their mother or father did what they needed to do to get the
child back. and prince george's county, nobody talks to each other. that child can go to another area and that child could be put in the house and never brought out and nobody there to check to see if the child exists. we got to first talk one language and that is the safety of children in the system. we must set these children up for financial success. foster parents come into the system to take a child and we give them a check. the state of maryland is one of the highest paid. the next is arizona. guess how much money the kid gets? 0. the problem is when the child turns 19 and ageds out, they
receive nothing. and we set them up for success when they age out of the system. give them a safety net, give them help with the first month's rent, a deposit on the car, given the fact of what we give our own children and we must open up pathways for education for these kids. we know education separates each and every one of us and a 4-year college, and we have to make sure these children get complete wraparound services. every year, it will happen tonight. we have a gala for comfort cases and we bring so many people throughout the country together. we have 300 people at the
bethesda marriott and we give a scholarship to two people in the system that are ageing out and will go on to more education. we give them a small little box and that box is my house key. and the schools closed during the holiday, and these are in a shelter. one of the recipients come and stay with us at the farm. he felt he had a home and he does and they all do. i need other people to help because the wraparound services is what these kids need. thank you for your question. any other questions? back here. >> i feel really inspired.
how do you get involved in comfort cases and all that kind of stuff? >> comfortcases.org, we have a center in rockville across the street from the nordstrom's rack and home depot. our center is open 7 days a week. we have evening hours, weekend hours, you login, sign up as a volunteer. we have no age restriction, we have little ones come in packing cases and we have a woman who is going to be 101. we ribbon every pair of pajamas and this is a charity we often get involved in. next time you go to a hotel don't use the shampoo, lotion and soak. bring it back for comfort cases. when sitting at home and realize your children have more books than they need, bring them comfort cases. we could use them. when you want to go to the overpriced coffee shop i won't say the name of, go to target, by a parent for john is with a
tag on it. you can make a difference in a child's life. comfortkids.org. any more questions? two years ago i was humbled to be on the ellen the generous show and she gave me $50,000 and said i want you to change your charity. i thought you kidding? i work a full-time job, i am running a charity. we had no employees whatsoever and i came back with my husband and children and talking to my family saying we got to take this $50,000 and make a difference in our charity. i got some of my great volunteers together and started thinking are we doing what i need us to do which is lemonade trashbags? the comfort case was a little too small so i found a 32 inch duffel bag, a 32 inch duffel bag that holds up to the size of a book. i realized the lightbulb moment went off at that time and i said this will emanate
trashbags. we started the comfort program, we gave 20,000 comfort excels throughout the united states. we have police officers in kentucky carry them in their trunks because they whatever grab another trash bag. next month i'm heading to texas to meet with the first lady of texas because she has committed to me she will lemonade trashbags in her state. in montgomery county we deliver cases on demand. i will receive a call at 2:00 am from a social worker who need the case and ensure the case arrives. the fact is we must do this together. we must all realize we cannot wait for our government to make change. we have to do it and i know next year after the 270,000 children estimated to enter foster care all receive a comfort excel i will walk on the steps of capitol hill and show them what communities really do together. children don't care if you are red or blue.
what they care about is that you love them. that you make a matter. that is what we have to make sure happens. any other questions? how many cases in a month? so far 5 years, we have done 55,000 cases. that is a lot of cases when we pay for our own shipping. this year alone we've done almost 20,000 in this year alone. we will end the year with 40,000 this year. the demand is crazy. it is so sad to my heart the demand. i travel the country and talk to kids in the system. i spoke to a little boy, 16, on thursday i was in virginia. virginia has one of the worst foster care systems in the united states. i remind politicians of that evy single day. the fact this little boy said
to me as we were giving him this case, i thought we were supposed to carry trashbags blues not acceptable. questions? thank you for coming out and loving your community as much as i love our community. each and every one of us need to do the following three things in our lives, number one, use your listening ears. every single person you meet, they have a story and you never know how that story can impact your life. number 2, always use your kind words. our history books have shown us we have never changed anything with hateful words. the most important thing that you can do is lead by example. lead by example. thank you. [applause]