Davion Only, 16, is a Florida teen who was born to an incarcerated mother and an absentee father. As a consequence, he has been bouncing around foster families and group homes ever since. Davion made headlines last year for a viral recording of him at his local church begging for a forever family.
“I’ll take anyone,” Davion said. “Old or young, dad or mom, black, white, purple. I don’t care. And I would be really appreciative. The best I could be.”
His impassioned plea overwhelmed the Tampa office of Eckerd Youth Alternatives, which oversaw his case, with over 10,000 inquiries. This cry for help followed the discovery that his birth mother had died. No media outlet has provided details on how Davion made that discovery, but it was his desire to leave a group home facility with locked refrigerators and cameras recording everything that motivated him to find family members on his own, starting with his mother.
Davion is now making headlines again for being kicked out of a prospective family in Ohio, who had promised to love him forever, because of a physical incident between Davion and another child in the home. According to the Tampa Bay Times, Davion was only in the home for a few weeks. Now he is back in Florida, and Eckerd’s therapists refuse to let him to talk to the media. He no longer has a cellphone and his Facebook page has been shut down.
The director of the Eckerd agency, Lorita Shirley, has since spoken out about Davion’s failed placement: “On paper, this was the book-definition perfect family for him,” said Shirley. “The father was a pastor who had worked with troubled kids. They knew about Davion’s background and his issues.”
Shirley goes on to add that Davion is in treatment and when ready, her agency will go down the list of people who have expressed interest in him. “Now, we might be looking at empty-nesters, people who raised teenagers but don’t have any other kids in their house. That might be the best match for him,” Shirley said.
When I read these statements, I immediately thought: “Why did Shirley place Davion in an out-of-state home with a non-relative that had competing children?” What looks good on paper is often subjective, which partially explains why foster care practices often fail kids. This crap-shooting, interviewing and checking-the-box-on-a-list approach may work with blind dates, but not with placing children into a stranger’s home.
As a former foster youth who has worked in child welfare and published a book about the inner workings of foster care, I have been following Davion’s story since its inception with great interest. I’ve also read nearly a thousand comments to Davion’s story on multiple media sites and with all things considered, here are some questions that need to be addressed:
1. Why didn’t Davion’s second cousin, a law enforcement officer, work out? What happened there?
2. Especially with all this media attention (Davion met with Barbara Walters), why haven’t more family finding efforts been made? If his agency lacks the necessary resources, how come they haven’t communicated that need and openly searched for a partnership with a family finding service?
3. At this point, only one aunt has been requesting custody of Davion. Why aren’t more stepping up and why haven’t advocates lobbied to ease eligibility laws with family members plagued with an old criminal conviction? Unless it was murder, rape, child abuse or equally heinous crime, and if the relative has rehabbed successfully for many years, why shouldn’t that family member be considered?
4. Why can’t someone interview Davion now?
What makes Davion’s case special is that the media has never before tracked a foster child while in placement. His privacy has already been invaded – as it had to be in order for his story to reach the public’s attention – which can be a good thing, if handled responsibly. The media and general public can learn a lot more about foster care and how it works, or doesn’t work, from this latest setback in Davion’s life.