Eighteen-year-old Andre Taylor was 5 years old when he entered the foster care system. He suffered through four foster homes and two group homes before finding what he calls the perfect family when he was 10. "In certain homes I was physically, mentally and emotionally abused," he says.
Andre tried to hope for a better life, but it was hard. "I remember when I entered foster care I was like, nobody loves me, nobody believes that I can do anything. So why should I be able to do anything?"
Now, with the support of the same stable, loving foster family for the last eight years, his ambition and achievement have soared. He's headed to UC Santa Barbara as an English major this fall, with hopes of a career in music. "If my music thing does not happen, I will go to graduate school, hopefully at Harvard for either law or English, and either to try become president or become an English professor," he says.
Like all foster children, Andre's greatest need was for someone to love him. "I had a child that asked me, 'How many hugs can I have per day?'" says Lisa Harris, a foster parent who has provided that love to 12 foster children over the last eight years. It takes more than love. There are other basic needs.
"Often times we'll get children who, they have no clothes, they have nothing. They come to your home with nothing," Harris says. "I've had children who were taken from their home at midnight and they have nothing."
That's where Rocklin-based mattress company Sleep Train comes in, asking people to donate basics like school supplies and clothing. Collection bins are set up at stores. Their TV and radio ads play year-round.
Sleep Train CEO Dale Carlsen says he got the idea after a toy drive for foster kids. "We noticed that when we delivered the toys, the kids didn't have the basic needs. They didn't have shoes, they didn't have mattresses, they didn't have jackets. They needed the basics," he says. "So at that point we said this is what we're going to do."
Foster children rely on the kindness and generosity of strangers. Programs like Sleep Train's try to make it easier for those strangers to help.
Here's how you can help foster kids in the Bay Area achieve their dreams. ABC7 News and Sleep Train have teamed up for the Dream Campaign. All you need is your Facebook account! Just go to Facebook.com/abc7news and click on the Dream Campaign tab. For every new 'like' on our page this summer, $1 gets donated to Bay Area kids. Once you 'like' our page, or if you're already a fan, you can still spread the word to your friends. Just choose your favorite badge and share it on your wall.