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Photo: Lisa Wrightsman
When soccer player Shauntel Payton attended the Street Child World Cup in Brazil, she says, “A lot of people kinda didn’t know why I was there. Like, ‘How are you homeless? You’re from the United States.’ ”

I hope readers don’t mind that I keep revisiting favorite themes. Since there are always new followers, I have to assume not everyone is familiar with the topics near and dear to my heart.

One such topic, covered here in 2014, concerns the sense of freedom that street soccer can provide to people experiencing homelessness. The 2014 story took place in Chile. This one, by Martin Kessler at Only a Game, is from California.

“Seventeen-year-old Shauntel Payton is the second oldest of five children. … Growing up, Shauntel and her siblings lived with their grandparents. She says her mom was in and out.

“But around 2010, Shauntel’s mom moved into a transitional housing program outside Sacramento for adults who had been in homeless shelters or rehab centers. She was recovering from addiction. Shauntel and her siblings joined their mom. Shauntel liked living there — there were lots of other kids.

” ‘All the kids knew where I was coming from,’ she says. ‘We all came from somewhat of the same background, so we all kinda just connected.’

“Around the same time, another resident named Lisa Wrightsman was trying to start a soccer team.

“Wrightsman was a former college player. She was also recovering from addiction. When she moved into the transitional housing, she realized Sacramento had a Street Soccer team for men. But not for women. So she decided to start one.

“And if she wanted to recruit women, she was certain of one thing: Children had to be welcome at practices. … That’s how Shauntel and her siblings ended up at the very first practice for the Sacramento Lady Salamanders.

“The idea was that the kids would sit and watch while their moms practiced. But when the Payton kids started wrestling on the sideline, Wrightsman realized that plan wasn’t going to work. …

“So Wrightsman invited Shauntel and her siblings to scrimmage against their mom and the five other players. …

“Shauntel says those practices were important.

” ‘It was like a different vibe when we would go there,’ she explains. ‘We kind of connected better than we would’ve, I think, without having some type of outlet to come together and do something as a family.’ …

“As Shauntel’s siblings got older, they gravitated to other sports. But Shauntel stuck with soccer.

“When I step on the field I just feel like a brand new person,’ she says. ‘And when I shoot the goal, it’s like a feeling like I’ve never really felt before. It’s like freedom.’

“And that brings us to an event called the Street Child World Cup. Every four years, the World Cup host country holds a competition for children who have been homeless.

“In 2014, Wrightsman nominated Shauntel to join the U.S. team in Brazil. …

Shauntel had never left the country. But in Brazil, she met boys and girls from Zimbabwe, Burundi, the Philippines, and 15 other countries.

“Some of the kids were surprised to see Shauntel and her U.S. teammates.

” ‘A lot of people kind of didn’t know why I was there,’ she says. ‘Like, “How are you homeless? You’re from the United States?” I was really shocked. And I was like, “I don’t know.” ‘

“The kids shared their stories. One Indian boy told Shauntel how he spent his days working for pocket change to help his family. And how he saw his dad abuse his mom.

” ‘It made me kind of think back to my life and how much I took for granted,’ Shauntel says. …

“Shauntel says as soon as she got back to the U.S., she gave all her siblings big hugs and started crying.” She says the trip made her more hopeful.”

More here.

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I subscribe to a listserv out of Harvard called Innovators Insights. It culls public-policy articles from all over. When you sign up, you pick general topics you want to hear about. (I can explain more if you ask.)

Today I received a link to a story about a new program in California to help foster children who have to change schools a lot. It sounds like a reasonable idea although I imagine some people might object to being in databases.

“Sacramento County, California, is now employing a database for foster youth to ensure that they can transition to new schools with fewer problems. Foster Focus tracks students’ grades, credits, course schedules, residential history, educational plans, the identity of their social worker, and other data so that students are no longer placed in the wrong grade level or in classes they have already completed when they enroll in a new school. The county has also developed another database that compiles foster home addresses, making it easier for social workers to place students in residences near their schools. Agencies across the country are soliciting the county’s advice as they seek to replicate these databases.” Read more here.

In a related story, U.S. Congressman James Langevin (Rhode Island) has been working to pass a federal law to prevent identity theft of foster youth. It is a serious issue as their personal information passes through many hands. I wonder if a database like the one in California makes this less of a problem by having everything in one place.

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