When 12-year-old Jimmy Wayne’s parents dropped him off at a motel and drove away, he became the newest member of the North Carolina Foster Care system. Over the next two years in the foster care system, he attended 12 different schools.
“I don’t even remember what I learned—no, let me rephrase that—I don’t remember what they tried to teach me—after fifth grade,” he told me recently. “It wasn’t until I had a stable home and was taken in by a loving family in tenth grade that I was able to hear anything, to learn anything. Before that, I wasn’t thinking about science, I was thinking about what I was going to eat that day or where I could get clothes. When I was finally in one place for a while, going to the same school, everything changed. Even my handwriting improved. I could focus. I was finally able to learn.”
Wayne got lucky. He was taken in at 16 by an older couple who saw how desperate he was for a stable home and an education. He lived with them for the next six years, and they gave him the stability he needed in order to finish high school and college and launch a successful country music career. He’s become a national spokesperson for Court Appointed Special Advocates, a network of volunteers who work to make sure that abused and neglected children don’t get lost in the legal and administrative red tape of the foster care system.