- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 29, 2003

When Carl Foster was growing up in the public-housing projects of Hartford, Conn., he remembers that “people got paid on Friday and were broke by Tuesday.” Until one day when he overheard two young men talking about going out on dates on Wednesday night. That “imprinted on my brain” that people don’t have to be penniless.
   
   “I decided right then and there that I wanted to be one of those people who still had money on Tuesday,” said the fervent Mr. Foster, who lives in Northwest. It is a Tuesday as he checks the crisp bills in his wallet.
   
   Mr. Foster, 53, the volunteer executive director of the Little Blue House, tells this story to illustrate the importance of being an unsuspecting role model for children, especially those in impoverished communities.
   
   “I tell volunteers when they go out into the community that they have to be careful what they do and what they say around kids, because children are watching you and they’re drawing conclusions,” he said. “They survey their neighborhoods for something to emulate, and seeing nothing, they keep searching for something to trust, care about or believe in.”
   
   The important message about exhibiting good character is the keynote of the acceptance speech Mr. Foster is preparing to give tonight as he accepts the Frederick Douglass Men of Strength Award from an organization to emulate, Men Can Stop Rape.
   
   Don McPherson, executive director of the Sports Leadership Institute at Adelphi Universityin New York, and Cedric Davis, president of the Gay/Straight Alliance at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, will also be honored during the fifth annual banquet at the Washington Plaza Hotel sponsored by Men Can Stop Rape. Men Can Stop Rape is a Washington-based organization incorporated in 1997. It "has grown from a small, all-volunteer collective and emerged as a nationally recognized pioneer skilled at engaging young men in preventing gender violence and making clear the connections between nonviolence, sexual and reproductive health, responsible fatherhood, and healthy models of masculinity," its mission statement reads.
   
   Pat McGann, director of outreach for Men Can Stop Rape, said, "These are not the sort of men who dominate the media airwaves, but they are the sort of men of strength who deserve to be recognized." He likened Mr. Foster to "D.C.'s version of Mr. Rogers."
   
   Although Douglass is best known as a 19th-century abolitionist, he also fought for women's suffrage, and the nonprofit agency that uses his name acknowledges the efforts men are making to work as women's allies, particularly in preventing sexual violence. The awards celebrate those who provide youth with positive models of men who "draw their strength from peace, compassion and equality."
   
   "Carl is committed to children outside the male traditional role," Mr. McGann said.
   
   Mr. Foster works as a producer for C-SPAN at night, so he can be on-call 24/7 as the hands-on director for the Little Blue House without receiving a salary.
   
   "I adjusted my career so I could work here for free during the day," he said.
   
   A temporary shelter for abused and abandoned children, the Little Blue House is at the former site of the D.C. Border Babies Project. Because it is a shelter, the location is not made public.
   
   Mr. Foster has raised $225,000 from private foundations to implement a program that will assist mothers, all of them addicted to drugs and unskilled, so they can be better parents. His experience has taught him that he can't help the children without helping their mothers. The nonstop horror stories he reveals and the hassles he has encountered in dealing with the District's foster care system speak volumes about the problem. Suffice it to say that the pathetic picture he paints could explain why so many children under the District's legal guardianship have fallen victim to further abuse.
   
   His agency has spent its own money on doctors and lawyers to secure stable or adoptive homes for some of these children.
   
   Still, Mr. Foster says, he has discovered that he is providing an even bigger service.
   
   "No matter what I do, the biggest impact I'm having is on the other kids in the neighborhood who see us come here day after day and take care of these children," he said. After one boy learned Mr. Foster "don't get paid," he told other children, and they now come to help around the house, and he also takes them on field trips.
   
   "I didn't decide to be a role model. The kids decided that," he said.
   
   Mr. Foster is a Vietnam veteran and a graduate of St. Louis University, and was a broadcast host, announcer and executive for two decades, most notably at WWDC and DC101 before joining C-SPAN.
   
   In 1986, he founded Carl's Kids at Shasha Bruce House, a youth service organization for teens in Northeast, where he provided counseling and group activities for first-time offenders. He was compelled to start the program after his younger brother, who was in trouble, died an early death. Eventually, he won over the boys in his group simply because he kept showing up, which demonstrated that "you won't give up on us."
   
   Serving on a dozen nonprofit boards, Mr. Foster is the recipient of the Fannie Mae Foundation Good Neighbor Award and the Washington Redskins' Citizenship Award.
   
    Mr. McGann said, "Dedication to providing a safe, nonviolent and nurturing environment for at-risk youth makes Carl a true man of strength."
   
    Men Can Stop Rape and Mr. Foster are examples of low-profile role models whose caring commitment can create a sea change in the lives of women and children.
   
   For more information about Men Can Stop Rape, go to www.mencanstoprape.org
or call 202/265-6530. For information on the Little Blue House, e-mail dcbbabies@aol.com.

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