C.T. Wilson is a successful prosecuting attorney for the eastern U.S. state of Maryland. But he recalls his childhood - spent in foster care where he endured beatings and sexual abuse. He grew up angry and rough, but he mustered the strength to turn his life around. We meet him in this edition of Making a Difference.
C.T. Wilson is in charge of prosecuting young adults in Prince George's County, Maryland. Many of these files belong to offenders who committed adult crimes such as robbery, carjacking and homicide.
"A lot of these are minors. In court last week, a judge sentence three kids in a row for like 20 years and they are all 17-years-old," Wilson explained.
Wilson says many young people convicted of such crimes have a life like his. Wilson was the oldest of 17 children. His mother was addicted to drugs and alcohol. He never met his father.
Wilson remembers the last time he saw his mother, at the age of four, when foster care was coming to take him away. "She knew they were coming to pick me up, so she gave me my stuffed animal and told me I had to be a man now. And she put me outside on the porch and locked the door and I was banging [on the door] to get back in. I know she probably did it for the best, but it was pretty tuff," he said.
Wilson took a long and painful path through successive foster families. He was finally adopted at the age of nine.
"That's when the story goes from pretty bad to worse. My father, he was a minister in the church with the kids, he was a kindergarten teacher; he was a Boy Scout and Cub Scout leader. And he was a pedophile," he said.
Wilson says he was abused and beaten until he was 14-years-old. By 18, he joined the military. "The military taught me I could accomplish anything," he said. "If I set my mind to it."
After seven years in the military, C.T. Wilson studied to be an attorney. Soon after graduation, he started working for the State of Maryland. That is when he noticed youngsters coming from foster care, getting in trouble with the law. "You are not going to stop crime by arresting people every day," he stated. "You are not going to stop crime by convicting people every day. You have to get in and actually get to the root of the problem."
Three years ago, C.T. Wilson decided to talk regularly with trouble youths. He tells them his story, and encourages them to believe in themselves and in a better life. "If I can be a lawyer, you can be anything you want to be," he said.
Thousands of children in foster care have heard Wilson speak. At this meeting here in Washington, parents who have spent years in jail were reunited with their children.
Raquaa is a 13-years-old who spent a year in foster care. He has re-united with his parents, but has been in trouble at school for fighting. He says he feels inspired by Wilson. "I felt like I could do anything such as what he does like - going to the military, going entrepreneur or [being a] lawyer," he said.
C.T. Wilson says he owes most of his transformation to his three small daughters, who taught him about love and how to be a family man.