Unearned windfall and foster children

Published 10:02 am Thursday, November 3, 2016

I have a bone to pick, and later a “thank you” to say, but before you stop reading – NO, it has nothing to do with the upcoming farce of our Presidential election. (That is beating a dead horse at this point, anyway.)

My concern is for a young woman named Katrina Bookman from Jamaica Queens, New York City, who is a single mother of four and was herself raised in foster care. Obviously there are countless thousands of women like this in our country, but how many of them played a slot machine and the screen displayed hitting jackpot winnings of nearly $43 million?

That’s not the bad part, though. After her initial shock and glee at the thought of actually being able to provide for her family for life, Ms. Bookman was later told by a casino employee that the machine had malfunctioned – but that he could offer her a complimentary steak dinner.

A steak dinner? Seriously?! As she put it in an interview with a local news station, she should be given her winnings and take THAT guy out for a steak dinner!

Ironically, I received an email with a press release this morning – prior to hearing of this woman’s plight – that informed me November is National Adoption Month, and it included statistics regarding the thousands of children who are adopted each year across the country. Unfortunately, one in four of abused and neglected children who are sent into the foster system reach the age of 18 without ever finding a “forever family” – just like this young woman who was denied her almost $43 million in winnings.

Every year, in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, courthouses all across North Carolina open their doors for National Adoption Day and finalize the process of adoption for hundreds of children here in our state, many of whom have been waiting in the foster system for years before finding their forever families. But about 22,000 children each and every year age out of the foster system without ever finding one – no place to call home, little or no support system, and nowhere to go for Thanksgiving.

National Adoption Day is not just about finalizing adoptions, however. It’s also focused on celebrating and giving thanks to the wonderful and amazing people who open their hearts and homes to children who otherwise would not have a home.

So, I’d just like to say to all of those families – on behalf of children who need you, everywhere – thank you, thank you, thank you!

But to the selfish and heartless casino owners who are denying Ms. Bookman the winnings she was told on the screen that she would receive, shame on you.

While I do understand that perhaps there was a machine malfunction, and maybe we don’t know all the circumstances behind it, it’s downright insulting to offer a single mom of four children a steak dinner in lieu of $43 million…especially since the cost of living in New York City is one of the highest in the country (and having lived in NYC myself, I know this on a very personal level to be oh-so-heartbreakingly-true).

At least treat her and her family to a smorgasbord Thanksgiving dinner, and at least a portion of the winnings she was expecting to be awarded.

Jennipher Dickens is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at jennipher.dickens@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.