The Oxford Eagle
According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 500,000 children are either in or waiting to be placed in foster care.
Angela Payne, 22, a senior from Guntersville, Alabama, was placed in foster care as an infant.
“I don’t remember a lot,” she said. “I was 6 months old when I went into foster care. My brother and I were found by a couple in a hotel, and the police came and put us in the (foster care) system. Our parents just left us there by ourselves.”
The process of going from foster care to adoption took almost 10 years of her life.
“I had gone into a home where there were a lot of kids coming and going,” Payne said. “My adoptive parents waited until I was in first grade to go through the adoption process. We had to go back to Tennessee from Alabama and go through that Tennessee foster care procedures. It was a long process, but at the end, I was theirs.”
Throughout the course of her foster care, Payne became friends with many who went through the system.
“For a lot of time afterwards, my adopted mom would still do foster care, and we still had a lot of kids come in and out of the house,” Payne said.
For Payne and her brother Chris, who had special needs during his childhood, it was a struggle to be separated, but they have since been able to connect through social media.
“My adopted mom was not trained in what he needed, so he had to go to a different family,” Payne said. “But when I was in 10th grade, we found each other on Facebook, and I talk to him almost every day. He currently lives in Nashville and just finished massage therapy school.”
Payne, who has been at Ole Miss since August 2011, almost didn’t attend Ole Miss.
“My mom started doing research for my psychology and political science majors, and she found out that Ole Miss was among the top schools,” Payne said.
“She told me I needed to do a campus visit and give it a shot. I begrudgingly came, but when I stepped onto campus, I knew this was where I was supposed to be. I just had a feeling of (home) that I never felt at other schools.”
Payne has been involved with Sigma Phi Lambda, a Christian sorority. She has formed numerous friendships with sorority sisters.
Rachael McDuffey, 19, from Vestavia Hills, Alabama, has formed a strong relationship with Payne.
“I’ve known Angela for a little over a year now,” she said. “I thought she was hilarious because there is never a moment where she is not laughing or making someone laugh about something. She has always been a person that I have wanted to get to know, so I just stuck around with her.”
Even though McDuffey was never in foster care, she has always considered the thoughts of being involved with it.
“My mom has always talked about wanting another child, but she never really considered looking into foster care,” McDuffey said. “I think the foster system is great. I would be scared that I would have to give up the foster child, but I would do it if I was guaranteed to keep the child.”
Though McDuffey doesn’t know the whole story, she understands that some things don’t have to be talked about.
“Everyone has a thing that they guard, and I feel like for her, it is one of those things,” she said. “It can be painful to talk about.”
While they have only known each other for a short amount of time, McDuffey can tell that the foster care system has made Payne stronger in life.
“I can’t imagine what being in foster care would be like,” McDuffey said. “I think it is part of what makes her a strong person today. She can pretty much handle whatever comes her way.”
Despite her past in foster care, Payne has become a success story with a strong family to reach out to, and she is reaching the goals that she has set in life.
“I graduate in May with two bachelor’s degrees in psychology and political science,” Payne said. “I am planning on moving back to Alabama to work on foreign policy and one day run for Senate.”
Payne also has a message for those involved in foster care.
“Always treat people with respect, and don’t sell yourself short in life,” she said. “Never make yourself a self-fulfilling prophecy in a negative way.”
For more information regarding foster care and adoption agencies, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb
I am currently a Broadcast Journalism major at the University of Mississippi. I work for Ole Miss Athletics and am an alumni of the Brothers Under Christ fraternity. Hotty Toddy!