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A Young Man's Love, Responsibility Inspire Praise

July 30's NBC Nightly News featured a story on Joseph Democko, a 23-year-old man who became a foster parent to his three nephews at the age of 20, and adopted them last September.  People magazine also featured him in the July 9 issue. 


Democko's story is a sharp contrast to the news reports about young Hollywood glitterati, with their predilection for drunk driving and refusal to accept responsibility for their actions.  Those starlets have fame and fortune, but fail to accept blame for anything.  This young man in the same age group is working hard to provide his nephews with a loving home when he could have passed off the responsibility to others. 


Neither NBC nor People used this story as a vehicle to bemoan the holes in America's foster care system.  Instead they rightfully trained the spotlight on a remarkable young man who actually fought for the responsibility of raising his nephews, one of whom, Chris, suffers with spina bifida.    


Democko told People and NBC that “The social worker told me, straight to my face, men can hardly take care of themselves, let alone take care of a child.  What makes you think you can do it?” But somebody had to do it -- the boys' mother, Democko's twin sister, is battling drug addiction.


By attending parenting classes, taking Chris to doctor's appointments and finding a job that allowed him to be home with the boys during the day, Democko convinced social workers he was able to accept responsibility for raising the boys.


It's easy to think of today's younger generation as self-indulgent train wrecks waiting to happen, especially because we're continually shown images of twentysomethings like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton.  But hearing stories about people like Democko, whose wish for his nephews is that they don't have a “hard life and grow up quick like [he] did,” restores hope.   


Colleen Raezler is a research assistant at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.