Gina Kim, my colleague at the Bee, traced the short, sad life of soldier Michael Crutchfield in a pair of front page articles recently. The 21-year-old former foster child shot himself at an army base in Iraq three days before Christmas.
At 16, Crutchfield had gone from a chaotic home with a drug addicted mother to the foster-care system, then into the army, and to Iraq. In e-mails he talks about boredom, heat and fear, but mostly he talks about loneliness, crushing loneliness typical of too many former foster children.
After basic, home on leave during what was to be his last Christmas, Crutchfield stayed in a motel. Before going to Iraq he blogged “The Day I leave I won’t be sad/No one will be there, not even my dad.
Thousands of kids leave the foster care system every year depressed and broke. An alarming number end up in prison or homeless. Some commit suicide.
As he does with every California soldier who dies in Iraq, Governor Schwarzenegger sent a condolence letter to Crutchfield’s family. What he should do is push for new laws to provide money and mentors to help former foster kids make the difficult transition from 18 to 21. He could call it the Michael Crutchfield Act.
Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.