CRYSTAL LAKE – In a children’s home at age 13, Amber Frantz lived with girls who had been prostitutes, committed armed robberies or done other bad acts for their age.
It terrified her.
“I learned early on that I did not want to be like that,” she said.
Growing up in the Milwaukee area, Frantz, who is 47 and lives in Woodstock, was placed in a foster home at 14.
But her foster parents were in it for the money, she said, and she was known as one of the “four foster girls.” There was no one person who got to know her, ask what she wanted to be when she grew up, or encourage her to go to college.
“I’m not saying all foster homes are bad; I just know my experience,” Frantz said. “But when you don’t have that mentoring, you’re lost. When I learned about CASA ... if I had someone that took an interest in me, it would have made my life so different.”
CASA of McHenry County, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates, has volunteers who provide support for abused and neglected children.
Frantz served as a board member and is a past-president.
“When you have, as a kid, really bad things happen to you, how do you process that?” Frantz said. “There are just so many things that CASA gets involved with that helps the child grow and be a better person.”
At 2 p.m. Jan. 6, the organization will show the documentary “From Place to Place” at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake. The film follows several young adults as they “age out” of foster care by turning 18 or 21 and having their cases closed, with no other services available.
After the documentary, a young man who aged out of foster care in McHenry County will share his experience with the audience.
“A lot of kids, when they age out, they don’t have anybody they can trust,” Frantz said. “And when you have nobody you can trust, you shut down a lot of the time and you end up going very negative, or you just don’t feel worthy,” Frantz sad.
She was very lonely, she said, and after so long of taking care of herself, it was just easier to push people away. “I always had this ability not to feel. That was my protector. I didn’t allow myself to get emotional because it hurt too much.”
People often think about the foster care system functionally – where kids stay and whether they have family, Frantz said. “But a lot of time when they do have family to go to, it’s not a healthy family.”
Mental and emotional support are needed, too, as are programs to help transition out of foster care.
Frantz was in a work-study program in her senior year of high school and the summer she aged out of foster care, she was able to find a full-time job and move out on her own.
When she was in her 20s, she married and had children, and used her clerical skills to start working at a bank. She now works as a business relationship manager.
In her 30s, with the help of counseling, is when she felt she began to really start living.
“Life is very different for me now,” Frantz said.
If you go:
What: A screening of the documentary “From Place to Place.” When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6. Where: Raue Center for the Arts, 26 N. Williams St., Crystal Lake. Cost: Free. Why: Raising awareness about “aging out” of foster care, which happens to nearly 29,000 youth every year.