LOUISVILLE, Ky. — This weekend, close to 60,000 people will head over to the St. Joe's Picnic for the Kids -- it's the largest picnic in the state of Kentucky. But, if you were to walk through the front doors of the St. Joseph Children's Home on Frankfort Avenue and look inside, do you know what you'd find?
Right now, 48 kids call St. Joe's home. They're wards of the state after years of abuse and neglect by their own families. We're giving you a glimpse of how their lives have changed since living there.
These are their letters from St. Joe's. (We will be updating this story with additional letters throughout the week.)
"You will have a family that wants you."
Foster care is scary because I moved in with people I didn’t know. I moved to three different homes. St. Joe’s is fun and I think I have improved a little and a little is better than nothing.
St. Joe’s tries their best to do fun things with me. They give me chances and try to help me get through the rough times.
I would tell my former self, “I know what you are going through. You will have a family that wants you. Try your best to be nice and appreciate them because sometimes you get too angry. Go on the right path and listen to them, they are right. Start right now to say how you feel and work on yourself”.
My three wishes:
- I wish I had a superpower of helping people.
- I wish I had the superpower to control anger.
- I wish I could go back in time so I could change my past to make my life better.
"You aren't a bad kid."
My journey is foster care has been bad. My dad was beating me, so I was placed into my first foster home. They locked me in a closet when I didn't want my hair cut or they shut me in the bathroom with the power off. My brothers are still afraid of the dark because of it.
Then, my dad acted fine but when I went back home, he started hitting me again. It kept happening over and over again.
The staff at St. Joe's have been awesome to me. I have been mean to them but I have started to trust them.
My life at St. Joe's is perfect because I feel more safe. They do fun stuff. They don't just give us a random family. They made sure it's a good family for us. They really care about us. It hasn't been very bad unless I make it bad, like by acting up.
I would tell my former self that your past doesn't determine your future. You aren't a bad kid. It's just the way you think sometimes. There is always room for change. Everything will get better. You will be with a foster family by age 13. What you learned from Dad wasn't right.
My 3 wishes:
- I wish I had a better dad.
- I wish I had a permanent home to live in.
- To stop people from being on the streets, because I've been there.
The staff at St. Joe's has given me hope. They help me feel safe. They've taught me to give respect and tell me it's going to be okay. They talk to me when I am upset, give me confidence. They just give me hope inside.
"It's good to help others."
One of my foster homes, I ran away from. I went to my friend’s home and told them things I was going through. I stayed with them for a while but was moved to another home. Things weren’t going well, so I was sent to St. Joe’s.
While living here, I realized they weren’t the right family for me. I didn’t feel like they had enough time for me. Since living here I got in touch with a family of a friend that has said they wanted me to live with them.
I think life at St. Joe’s is great. So much better than other placements than I have lived at. You get a lot of what you want, and everything you need. The staff are really good and take us places.
I would tell my former self to not be scared to tell the truth. If a CPS worker or a state worker came to the house to not be afraid.
I would have gotten to a safer place a lot sooner than I did.
My three wishes:
- I wish more people would give back to St. Joe’s and other residential facilities. It is a great cause and it’s good to help others.
- I wish I could stay young as long as I want to. I don’t want to get older.
- I wish I could go back in time so I can see what St. Joe’s was like in the 1800’s. Also because I think it would be cool to go back in time and see how things were.
My staff gives me hope. I talk to her and I trust her so when I am making decisions about my life she helps me.
"I am a kind person. I think a family would like that."
I was removed from my family when I was 7 years old, so I don't remember my journey before St. Joe's.
St. Joe's is fun and exciting because a lot of people come and see us but sometimes sad, because a lot of people come and go.
Sometimes I'm sad and sometimes happy living at St. Joe's. Sometimes you have good days and sometimes you have bad days. Life is normal at St. Joe's. I have friends who sometimes come and go. St. Joe's is my family and they treat us nicely. They let us go off campus and have fun. I feel safe.
I would tell myself to act better and you will find a real family.
There will be sadness because some families want better for you.
My 3 wishes:
- For St. Joe's to be a castle, because it could fit way more kids and staff and give more love and support.
- To go back to my grandma have fun and see the rest of my family.
- For my mom to stop being abusive so she can see me again and we can start over.
My therapists are trying to find a new placement for me, even though it is so hard. I still have to do it.
I am a kind person. I think a family would like that.
"Don't change for nobody..."
I have been through different foster placements. They've made mistakes and I've made mistakes. It has been hard and confusing. Living at St. Joe's has been fun and interesting. I have a lot of people to learn from and to teach me a lot I didn't know. I have learned how to do a lot of things the right way.
My life is fun and amazing at St. Joe's. Sometimes I do get mad but it goes back down. There are looking for a new home for me right now.
I would tell myself - don't change for nobody and keep your cool.
- I wish I had longer hair.
- To make a lot of friends in high school.
The staff here give me hope. They've given me a path of what I can do to get out of here and not come back to placement. They put quotes on our board that inspire me. They teach me to focus on what’s ahead of me and not in the past. They are teaching me to be more mature and helping me with [what] my future could hold.
"They gave me life."
Among the stories of tragedy and heartbreak that you hear at St. Joe's, there are plenty of stories of hope. When a child finally finds a home and a family, it's a moment to celebrate.
Anthony Kennedy is one of those success stories. Watch it here:
One hundred percent of the proceeds from the St. Joe's Picnic supports the children who call it home. You can learn how to become a foster or adoptive parent while finding ways to volunteer your time with these kids on the St. Joe's website.
The picnic will take place on August 9 and 10 at 2823 Frankfort Avenue.