Twins born in foster care travel more than 90 miles from Georgia to Florida to ‘shed light’ on abuse in the system and lack of protection after adoption

Twin brothers adopted into foster care at age 2 have embarked on a state-to-state march to expose flaws in the nation’s foster care system.

Davon and Tavon Woods, now 26, walked this week from their home in Statesboro, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida, to meet the birth mother of a 4-year-old boy killed in foster care.

The men hope their efforts, which coincide with National Foster Care Month, will draw attention to the abuse and mistreatment of children in foster care and let those children know that someone is in their corner.

Twins (left to right) Tavon and Davon Woods walk 176 miles to raise awareness about child abuse in foster care. (Photo: Instagram/Davon Woods)

“What’s going on in the foster care system isn’t getting the right attention, and there are so many innocent children losing their lives,” Davon told Atlanta Black Star in an interview. “There are children aged in foster care who become homeless, incarcerated.”

There are currently more than 407,000 children in foster care, and 34% have been placed with relatives, according to national data. According to a 2020 report from USA Today, more than 600 children have been placed in homes in Florida with adoptive parents who have been accused of abuse.

In Georgia, there were 26.3 reports of child abuse per 10,000 foster children, according to state figures. Over the past two years, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has pushed and passed legislation to increase foster adoptions and protect foster children.

Davon and Tavon began the trip Monday with an escort from their local sheriff’s office in Statesboro. By Wednesday, they had traveled more than 70 miles to Jesup, Georgia.

The brothers set a goal of walking 30 miles a day, but it turned out to be a challenge. While walking through the back roads from Jesup to New Hunter, they encountered several dogs and had to deal with the sweltering heat. They averaged 22 miles Monday through Thursday, sleeping in Airbnb rentals overnight.

The brothers had originally planned to walk 176 miles, but were turned away on the final leg by rain. They asked someone to carry them closer to the finish line where they rode the last 4 kilometers.

The couple didn’t train for the five-day walk, so they treated swollen and tired feet at night, but said it was worth the ‘extra effort’ for foster kids like James Reese . They dedicated the last 4 miles to the 4 year old boy.

The Jacksonville boy died on April 23, succumbing to multiple broken bones, a fractured skull and other injuries after being taken from his mother and placed with relatives. Authorities are investigating Reese’s death as a murder.

Davon and Tavon spoke to Reese’s mother, Karissa Garcia, along the way, and they look forward to providing support in person when they arrive in Jacksonville on Friday. Reese was removed from Garcia’s custody after authorities determined his domestic partner had created an abusive and dangerous home life for the boy, according to his family members.

“I don’t think we really need to say much,” Davon said. “By taking this walk, it shows her that someone cares about her, and we’re ready to go the extra mile to make sure these children’s stories are heard.”

While foster and group homes have their flaws, Tavon said adoptions could be the most “scary” for children in foster care because no social worker is supervising them, which could create a situation conducive to abuse.

Although the Woods brothers were adopted as toddlers, they chose their initial path of substance and alcohol use early in their adult lives due to the emotional pain they had been feeling ever since. childhood, they said. Davon said they never felt loved by their adoptive parents and were often yelled at and beaten for minor mistakes. Davon recalled feeling speechless and suicidal as a teenager.

“We used to see all of our other friends often doing stuff with their parents and the relationships they had with their parents,” Davon said. “We were like, dang, this is what we wanted. So just missing all that love and affection.

The twin said there should be more safeguards to screen people who adopt or adopt children. They have dedicated their lives to the cause. The brothers were able to get financial support through crowdfunding on social media, and they secured the necessities for the trip by posting an Amazon wishlist.

“There was a lot of verbal abuse,” said Davon, who has since reconciled with his adoptive parents. “Lots of beatings and stuff like that for little little issues that we could easily have talked about.”

The Woods brothers were considered “crack babies” when they were born. Child protective services took them directly from the hospital to a foster family.

Davon and Tavon didn’t learn they were adopted until they were 11 years old. When they were 17, they bumped into their birth family one day in a South Carolina mall, but even that didn’t heal their wounds, Davon said. Their birth mother seemed emotionally detached from them, he said.

The twin brothers want to continue their efforts to change the foster care system beyond long-distance travel for awareness. They want to open a care home for foster children and transition homes for children coming out of the system.

The Woods brothers also have a special message for foster children or adoptees.

“Keep pushing. Keep pushing because a lot of times in life we ​​get hit with a lot of stop signs, a lot of surrender signs, but at the end of the day you have to keep pushing,” Davon said.

“They put a label on us, and once you have a label on us, it’s hard to take off,” he said. “You can beat the odds. You can succeed. You can be whatever you want to be and don’t let this system hold you back.

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