At last Thursday’s Council hearing on the DHS budget, Raynette Tolen shared with Councilmember Jim Graham and other members of the Council’s Human Services Committee her desperate wish to reunite with her two oldest children – boys who are presently in the foster care system and who won’t be reunified with their mom and siblings until Ms. Tolen has safe and adequate housing.  Ms. Tolen, who herself grew up in foster care and aged out of that system with little more than a “good luck” wish from the child welfare system, presently resides at the DC General family shelter.  She and the more than 280 other families with whom she lives at that shelter are in dire need of a decent, affordable place to call home.

Testimony of Raynette Tolen

My name is Raynette Tolen and I am the mother of six kids.  I became homeless at the age of 21 when I emancipated out of CFSA.  They gave me a check and I was out of foster care.  I had already had my two oldest sons and was pregnant with my daughter.  When I went to FRC they told me that I needed to get letters from everyone that I was staying with saying that I could not stay with them.  After I got those letters together for FRC I was referred to DC General were I am currently staying.

Right now I have four of my kids with me.  The other two are in foster care.  I granted temporary custody to my grandmother while I look for housing.  The Judge on this case said that I could not get my oldest two sons back until I have housing.  I want to be able to take care of all of my kids and I want my sons back.  Right now I have a job but want to go back to school for my CNA.  I had to drop out of school and go to work because I was homeless.  Permanent Supportive Housing will help me.  I am out here by myself.  I do not have any family to get help from.  My mother and father have never been a factor in my life and I have been the system all my life.  I want to be able to take care of my kids.  One of my sons has autism and I am Bipolar.  We received SSI and need PSH.  I want to be able to get the help I need for our illnesses and take care of my family.

If I get housing I will be able to go back to school and support my family.  I just want all of my kids and want to be able to take care of them.  The last thing I want to see is my two kids growing up in the system like I did and feeling like I don’t love them.  I am grateful for where I am but this life I have been living is not easy and my first goal is to get my housing.  Then I want to go back to school and support my family.