Fostering hope for the holidays

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Rayshawn Parnell knows all too well what it’s like to be a child of “the system”.

“I was in nine foster homes and six group homes,” said Parnell of his childhood.

Parnell and his older brother were taken into custody by Franklin County Children’s Services when he was less than a year old.

“I would say I was lost,” he said. “I would say I wasn't confident. Life was very inconsistent for me growing up.”

For years, Parnell played the cards he was dealt. He says he yearned for stability, a family and a place to belong.

“When everyone left for their breaks in college, I had nowhere else to go,” said Parnell. “So, my sophomore year, I actually stayed on campus and I wasn't supposed to.”

Parnell says he began to turn his life around when a case worker began spending quality time with him.

“We became close. He became consistent. He became the thing that I yearned for,” said Parnell.

Now, Parnell is mentoring teenagers in the same fashion he was mentored years ago.

Parnell says got a degree in psychology from Central State University. He is now a mentor at the National Youth Advocacy Program (NYAP).

“These kids are in situations and living conditions where they have nobody,” said Parnell. “Hey, I think I have the recipe. And that's why I work here - to teach that recipe to these kids.”

Most of the kids in need of a home for the holidays are teens.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent and learning more about how you can make a difference, you can contact the National Youth Advocate Program’s 24 hour hotline at: 1-866-NYAP-CAN (692-7226).

According to a statement from NYAP, “foster parents can be single, married, divorced, gay, renting, homeowner, etc. What we are looking for are committed and compassionate individuals willing to open their hearts and homes to a youth in need.”

Contact Candy Mota from the National Youth Advocate Program at 614-506-9930 or cmota@nyap.org.