This series originally appeared on KERA News.
Cody Easlic is 6’1, thin, and has a reddish goatee. At a park near his apartment, he arrives in a neon-green T-shirt, shorts and a black and yellow baseball cap.
“Having a negative outlook doesn’t do anything but make things worse,” he says.
When he was four, the state removed Cody, a brother and a sister out of their home, and into foster care. His mom and dad, he says, were drug users. Cody also remembers being hungry, a lot.
“I don’t come from the greatest circumstances, I’ve seen a lot of violence,” he says. “I’ve been a part of a lot of negativity, so I want to be more on the up-beat side.”
Life in foster care
Cody thought foster care was only going to be temporary, but he stayed in the system for 14 years, until he aged out at 18. A spokeswoman at the Department of Family and Protective Services says Cody and his siblings were placed together initially, but were later separated. One of the goals of the state’s foster care redesign is to keep siblings together, and closer to home.
“Most little boys, when they’re growing up,” he says, “their dads, they’ll take them camping. They’ll have a map, a compass, or whatever. I don’t know anything about all that.”
Cody shuffled through three dozen or more foster homes, group homes, and institutions, across Texas.
“It was rough,” he says. “I had some placements [where] I got abused, in some. I, you never really feel wanted, or, or cared for. You don’t ever really feel a part of the family, I guess.”
But his heart fills, remembering his first-ever foster home.
“The first family that I got placed in seemed to have a genuine care for me,” Cody says. “And I kind of credit them for me being who I am today, somewhat, because they were a positive, they were good people.”
Momma bear and papa bear
He called them momma bear and papa bear. Then his first foster dad suffered a heart attack, and could no longer care for Cody, who was then only 9.
“I would have given so much to have a stable home,” he says. “And parents that I could come back to on holidays and things like that, ’cause there is no home.”
Before Cody turned 18, what the state calls emancipation, he did go through a course called PAL, Preparation for Adult Living, but he felt that his last foster parents could have done more.
“They didn’t take enough time to teach me,” he says. “… [to] prepare for me what it was going to be like when I got out on my own, ya know, show you the way, basically.”
Managing as an adult
Cody got help from CitySquare’s TRAC program, which helps young adults with housing after they’ve aged out of foster care. Now, Cody works at Old Navy, and earns a little more than the minimum wage. His work day begins at 7— but without a car, it means getting up before sunrise.
“I shower to help myself wake up, and then I usually walk,” he says. “It’s about a 20 to 30 minute walk to the train station. And then I take the train without buying a pass because I don’t have the money.”
He has to save every penny because he’s a new daddy, to six-month old Aubri.
“I didn’t really plan on having a child but, things happen,” he says. “I knew I wasn’t financially ready to have one. But it did happen, and she’s a blessing to have.”
The baby lives with her mom in Plano. For a single dad, it’s a challenge.
“You look left, you like right,” he says. “You look behind you, in front of you. And there, there’s just nobody within 100 miles that can do anything to help you, that you know of. Unfortunately, me and a lot of youths that age out of care don’t have that. They don’t have anybody there to try to kind of guide them in the right direction, or give them a the support they may need.”
Cody has had trouble with the law. He admits he stole diapers, groceries, and other items to get by when his paycheck couldn’t cover his expenses.
“I mean, it’s scary,” he says. “And people often do things that are out of character, or that they shouldn’t necessarily have to do, to try to stay off the streets. And to try to stay out of the jailhouse, or any grim end that they try to prevent. It’s hard.”
On the day of this interview, he had plans to go donate plasma for money.
“It’s just giving blood and they take the plasma…for health research or something like that,” Cody explains. “Right now, I’m just in a bad spot. I’m trying to do what I can to provide for my daughter.”
His goal is to get a car, a new job, and eventually become a therapist to help former foster kids.