Kids Ask Dr. Phil and Robin: John

Beating the Odds
Kids and parents ask Dr. Phil about their concerns and fears.
John, 17, has lived in 15 different foster homes over the last 10 years. The longest he has stayed in one place was a year and a half. He had to leave one home because they didn't want him anymore, and another was very abusive. "I felt really, really, really worthless. I felt alone and nobody cared," John explains. "Being in foster care has caused me to put a wall up because I move around so much and I'm always afraid to get close to people. I try to trust people and they end up letting me down. It feels empty," he says.

Although he has had a difficult life, John has excelled in school and plans to continue his education with a law degree. Even with this success, it is hard for John to enjoy his accomplishments. "People had always said that I was stupid and that I would never get anywhere, and then finally I do something good, but it hurt because I had no one to share it with."

John wants to know how he can stop feeling so alone and start trusting people. "I want to feel like I have people who love and support me and not have to stress so much about the small things in life," he says.

Dr. Phil asks John, "What do you say to yourself about you?"

"Sometimes I feel like people don't want me because I'm overbearing.

I talk a lot," John says. "I think it has to do with the fact that I move around so much that I know that talking a lot is going to push people away and not want to do anything with me," he explains. John also has internalized a lot of the negative things people have told him. "You know that old saying, 'If more than five people say it, it must be true?'"

Dr. Phil explains to John, "The number one need

in all people is acceptance ... Feeling like you belong somewhere, you're welcome somewhere, and you want to be somewhere. The number one fear predictably is rejection, and you've had a lot of those experiences where you've been rejected and sent away." Dr. Phil asks him, "Are you aware that that changes what you say to yourself about you?"

"When people say good things about me, it makes me feel good, but it just ends up making me think, 'Well, sooner or later they're just going to say something bad,' because so many people say bad things about me. It's like I don't have a lot of time to gloat on the positive," John replies.

Dr. Phil tells John that when people hear negative comments from others all the time, they start saying it to themselves, and end up putting themselves down. "There is no way to make what has happened in your life OK. Children don't have the ability to control their worlds, but you do have responsibility for what you do about it now," Dr. Phil says to him. "Sometimes you have to give yourself what you wish you were getting from someone else."

Dr. Phil tells John a story about his own life. He explains that his father died before he started on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and he would have been really proud and excited for Dr. Phil. "I would love to be able to share that with him. I'd love to be able to hear him say, 'You're doing a really good thing. You're using your platform for the right reason and I'm proud of you.' I don't get to hear that from him because he passed away. So I have to give that to myself sometimes." He tells John that he needs to remind himself of the good things he has done, and feel proud of himself.


"Your number one challenge is to create what I call meaning to your suffering. If you suffer in your life, that's really bad, but what you can do is at least create some meaning that comes from it." He tells John that his goal of becoming an attorney to protect foster kids is a great use of his life. Dr. Phil reminds John not to be judgmental because not all people are jerks. "There are ways that you can let people lift you up some and give you some love in word and deed from their hearts to yours."

Dr. Phil plays a special video message for John from Victoria Rowell, an actress who's the founder and chair of the Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan,

which places foster kids in internship positions with production companies and offers fine art scholarships. She is also the recipient of nine NAACP Image awards. She tells John that she too grew up in foster care until she was 18 years old. Then, when she was emancipated, she was homeless. "I have suffered and I have risen above. You can turn this thing around called foster care. It can be the very cornerstone of who you become," she says to him. "Remember that you can achieve anything that you set your mind and heart to."

Dr. Phil then introduces Victoria, who comes on stage to meet John. He is a big fan of her acting on "Diagnosis Murder," and is excited to meet her.

Dr. Phil tells John, "We want to help you get your future off to a good start," and Victoria informs him that the Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan, along with the Bruce Willis Foundation, are providing him with roundtrip airfare to see his brother whom he hasn't seen in two years. She also tells him that they are giving him a laptop computer and a $2500 start for his academic career. "I encourage the nation to help me in this campaign for you," Victoria says. She has also arranged for John to have an interview for a coveted internship position at Sony. She also tells him she has arranged for her dentist to check his teeth, because when kids emancipate from foster care, it is hard because they don't have dental and medical benefits.

Dr. Phil tells John that Earthlink has agreed to provide him with a free year of Internet access to go along with his new computer. "You need that for your personal e-mail account so you can e-mail me and let me know how everything's going," Dr. Phil tells him.


John was concerned about getting in to Cal State Bakersfield, because he went to 12 different high schools. Dr. Phil introduces Mr. Kendyl Magnuson,
the Associate Director of Admissions and Records at Cal State University Bakersfield, who tells John, "I'd first like to say, we believe in you ... and we saw your ACT scores, they're wonderful. As part of that belief, I want to back it up by saying, we're offering you admission to California State University Bakersfield for the fall term." The audience applauds and gives John a standing ovation. Mr. Magnuson gives John a sweatshirt from the school and John eagerly puts it on.

Dr. Phil tells John that because it is his dream to travel and he has never been out of California, Contiki Holidays, the worldwide

leader in group tours for 18- to 35-year-olds, is providing him with a free trip to Europe. The trip includes airfare to London and Paris for eight days and seven nights, as well as hotel accommodations. Acknowledging that it's John's 18th birthday, Dr. Phil tells him, "We chose this as your birthday present because they do tours for all these young people so you can make lots of great friends while you're there."


Dr. Phil tells John that he is now among the people who care about him and his future.
"I want you to be aware that you may not have had people in your life all along the way that cared about who you are and what happens to you in the future, but you're with some now."

Agreeing with Dr. Phil, Victoria tells John "You deserve this and we salute you."

John expresses his gratitude for the gifts.





For more information about Rowell Foster Children's Positive Plan, go to