May is National Foster Care Month and according to government statistics, there are over half a million children in America’s foster care system today. For perspective, that’s more than the population of pre-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Beyond the numbers, each child bears a personal story that starts with heartbreak and almost always ends with it, too. Is the system failing America’s foster children?
“Yes,” answers foster child advocate Margaret Iuculano, whose tragic trip through the system is documented in the new book “My God Box.” “Children are ripped from their less than idyllic homes and shuffled around to foster parents who don’t always have the child’s best interest in mind,” she continues.
The now successful mother, wife and businesswoman found many of the families that took her in during those horrifying childhood years were using her and the system as an additional source of income. “I’m not saying all foster parents are bad,” says Iuculano. “That would be unfair to those who foster for the right reasons. But there are many unscrupulous people who bring emotionally fragile and physically wounded children into their homes simply for the paycheck. And the more kids they bring into their home, the more money the government pays them. The system needs a major overhaul.”
Another issue of particular concern to Iuculano is when foster children ‘age out’ of the system once they turn 18-years-old or complete high school. Are vulnerable youths who have bounced from home to home and school to school able handle life on their own?
According to Iuculano, despite having access to free college, many ‘aged out’ adults are not prepared for higher education since they did not grow up in a stable learning environment. “Couple that with the fact that only 38% of foster care kids are employed 12 to 18 months after their discharge from the system, and it’s sadly obvious why there’s an upward trend of homelessness among those who have aged out.”
As survivor of the system, Margaret has moved on to own two businesses and serve as the President and CEO of a multi-million dollar Microsoft consulting company. She is now focused on the mission of shedding light on the secret lives of foster children and doing what she can to help and motivate, “I was inspired by faith and overcame the victim mentality so it’s my responsibility to help other foster children triumph as well.”
Iuculano explains her long term goal is to open a group home for ‘aged out’ foster care kids, “I want it to serve as a transition from a system life to a self-sufficient life. The plan is to offer a happy environment that encourages bonding with others, not treatment like a second class citizen.” In the meantime, proceeds from her book, “My God Box,” will go to many different not for profits dedicated to children.
For Iuculano, even the slightest failures in the foster care system are unacceptable, “These children are already at risk. Leaving them unprepared for adulthood is a travesty.” It’s not realistic to have everyone write a book about their foster care experience or open a group home for ‘aged out’ adults, but Iuculano points out, “You can do something. Get involved with a local charity. It’s up to all of us to try and change the failures of the foster care system this month and beyond.”
About Margaret Iuculano
Margaret Iuculano’s personal account of how the foster care system failed her and others and the subsequent triumph over her childhood demons to become a successful wife, mother and CEO is chronicled in her book, “My God Box.”
Once she accomplished professional success that included owning two companies and serving as President and CEO of a multi-million dollar Microsoft consulting company, Iuculano turned her focus to children’s advocacy.
Iuculano was habitually beaten by an alcoholic step-father, who labeled her an ‘incorrigible’ child and insisted she be placed in foster care. She then was a firsthand witness to the shattered foster care system, which was commonly used by foster parents as source of added income, not a way to make a difference in a vulnerable child’s life.
Iuculano, who currently lives in Tampa, FL with her family, hopes her story will encourage activism on behalf of America’s forgotten children and inspire others who have faced seemingly insurmountable struggles. Iuculano’s website is www.Margaretlano.com.