James DeMoines, 23, grew up in a turbulent household. One of six children of two mentally ill parents, life at home was violent and unstable. “Things were always hectic at home. My mom was bi-polar and abused drugs and my dad was violent toward my mom and us kids. But the situation was exacerbated in 2007 when the economy tanked.”
At that point, James and his siblings entered the foster care system. Three siblings stayed together in one foster placement, two siblings went to another foster home. James alone went to live with Carole Hawke.
“In retrospect, it was a good move,” says James. “I was the oldest, so I was the de facto parent and when I was put into foster care by myself, it let my brothers and sisters form attachments to other parental figures. And it let me be a kid again.”
James was 13 when he was placed into foster care through Samaritas. Carole adopted James when he was 15.
“I love my mom. She is a good hearted person.”
Carole is a social studies teacher and is also the foster mother to Chantal, 16. “My mom takes care of people…right now, one of Chantal’s friends is living with us as well, because of a bad situation at home.”
James is very open about his past and speaks openly and very articulately about his struggles. “I was not an easy teenager,” he laughs. “I was horrible to my mom and horrible to myself.” School was a challenge because James was bored and couldn’t tolerate sitting for long periods of time. He started working out as a way to cope with the emotions he was feeling and the frustration he was experiencing. “It was a way to help me process, to cope with all the trauma I had gone through as a kid.”
It’s a coping mechanism he still employs today. James is currently working as a sheet metal fabricator and welder. In his spare time, he enjoys volunteering in his Brightmoor neighborhood community garden with his mother and playing video games. “The video games are my way of getting back in touch with the childish side of me. I didn’t have much opportunity to do that as a kid, so I’m trying to enjoy that now.” The gardening is his way of connecting with his mother and his neighbors and “enjoying that sense of brotherhood that comes with volunteering.” One day James would love to be a foster parent himself. “I know people are dubious about us Millennials,” he says laughingly. “But I feel it’s a moral prerogative… if you have the means, and the room to open up your home, you should.”
He remembers how it felt when he was welcomed into Carole’s home and when she adopted him. “I was accepted as family. People need those connections to thrive. I would love to help in that way someday.”