“Pancakes make me sick to my stomach. In one house, that’s all they gave us—breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a year. I’ll never eat pancakes again.”

Isaiah has lived in too many foster placements to remember.

“I can’t even say the number. Foster parents don’t want the older kids, the teenagers. I get it.”

He stays with his grandparents now, who themselves are struggling to make ends meet. He chips in a little each month to help cover their utilities, with money he earns busing tables at a local diner. He works 34 hours/week at $9.25/hour… which allows the restaurant to avoid paying him overtime or insurance. Another 30 hours/week he’s in an adult education program, to prepare himself for a job that could pay more. His teacher calls him a “star student.”

Isaiah’s time in foster care taught him that there are always going to people in power who are willing to break the rules: The politician who would give his foster family a heads up before they came to inspect; the detention center worker who’d sneak illegal substances in to the facilities.

“The first thing I would do if I was Governor is treat kids like me like we matter.”

Isaiah’s story is a story of his triumph and our government’s failure. Like hundreds of thousands of West Virginians, he has overcome incredible pain to become a citizen who works hard and gives back. And his reward is a poverty wage.

In the wealthiest time in West Virginia history, it doesn’t have to be this way.

See some of our plans to address this here: