Rosie O'Donnell and Sen. Landrieu Fostering Hope

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 6, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: And now Rosie O'Donnell goes "On the Record." Rosie and Senator Mary Landrieu held three events here in Washington today to raise awareness about the needs of foster children in America. Moments ago, Rosie and Senator Landrieu went "On the Record" about today's events, whether Rosie misses being on "The View" and much more.


VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you.

SEN. MARY LANDRIEU, D-LA: Thank you, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rosie, welcome to Washington.

ROSIE O'DONNELL: Thank you very much. Nice to see you.

VAN SUSTEREN: You ever been here before?

O'DONNELL: In 8th grade on a field trip, I think. That was it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, did you give her a tour?

LANDRIEU: I gave her a little bit of a tour, but she's been working so hard today, I haven't had a chance. She has really earned her pay today.

O'DONNELL: That's true.

VAN SUSTEREN: So why are you here?

O'DONNELL: I am here because I really believe in foster care reform. And this bill that the senator has put this up for hopeful approval is really instrumental in getting people to understand what's going on with foster kids in the country, and what's a great way we can help them right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: I forget, you are both adoptive parents.


O'DONNELL: Yes. And our daughters are the same age, and they're both into horses. So we made a big connection on that.

LANDRIEU: Just today.

VAN SUSTEREN: One of the other problems I remember from when I was practicing law is that the adoption agent, the foster care, it would linger in the system so much. The backlog that was so incredible that even with everyone's good heart and good mind, it wasn't moving.

O'DONNELL: It was set up to care for war orphans. And now the system is full of orphans of living people. So we don't know really how to deal with that in the country. There are half a million kids in foster care, there are 141,000 licensed foster homes.

There are 100,000 children in America free for adoption today.

LANDRIEU: Waiting.

O'DONNELL: Waiting for homes. And most of those kids age out of the system without ever having a family.

So try to go to college with no place to go at Thanksgiving when they close the dorms, with no one to help you with the books or what courses to take.

VAN SUSTEREN: They are not so much better off once they are liberated.

O'DONNELL: The sad statistics are eight out of 10 of kids who are aging out of the system, and there are 25,000 a year, 80 percent of them end up dead, homeless, or in jail.

LANDRIEU: And the sad thing is there is really nothing wrong with these children. There was something terribly wrong with the family to which they were born into. These children were not damaged goods when they came into the world, and, amazingly, even after terrible circumstances, as Rosie can attest to in her own life, they are not damaged. They can be extremely successful.

These kids come here. They have averages of 4.0 average, kids that slept three years of their life in a car. One child told me, "Senator, when I got really hungry, I put salt on paper because it would help me to eat a little bit more. That's how hungry I was."

These kids are amazing children. And we have a system that thinks about them as damaged or they're no good.

And getting back to your point, Greta, yes, it's easier for children to adopt infants. I did. I did. I think adopt younger children. But believe me, there are many children in America that are open to adopting teenagers, even young adults. And as I've said, when are you too old to need a parent?

VAN SUSTEREN: So what's your wish list? As you come to Washington, if you could have your wish list, what are you asking the senate to do, and others? Give me sort of the laundry list.

O'DONNELL: The big thing that we're talking about doing is making a huge sort of lobby. Everybody who has a lobby in Washington has something that they're gaining materially.

The NRA -- when I was talking about gun-control. The gun makes billions of dollars a year for guns, so that you are going to have a lobby against you.

But there is nobody in the country that is saying, "We are for abandoning children before they're 18."

So this is a wonderful way to get all the thinking heads and the senators and the members of Congress together to say, "How can we restructure this from the grounds up?" There are billions of dollars allocated every year to foster care. It's just not spent on a system that works very well.

There are a lot of holes in the bucket, and, as opposed to patching the holes, maybe we will make a new bucket.

VAN SUSTEREN: Besides the sense of responsibility and compassion towards children, as a practical matter, if we don't take care of these children, we have got bigger long-run problems.

Nobody wants to say that, but that is next, you know, the problems when they get older and they have no place to go, and they need the money, they don't have a job or a family structure. It behooves us to be responsible early on.

O'DONNELL: Correct. And they don't have addresses to get a job, to put down an address. They don't have a home to live in.

And a lot of states have moved it to 21 instead of 18. If you stay, you could stay with the foster care until you're 21. In New York, I know that's true. I'm not sure in Washington.

LANDRIEU: We have a transition program now that at 18 you move out into independent living. And the government continues to try to subsidize your living. But at some point, you have to go on, just like our children. We are raising them to be independent. At some point, we hope, they will be ready to be independent.

But then the interesting thing about this particular bill, which, if you don't mind, I would love to mention, is that it actually recruits college-bound mentors to foster academic mentoring -- not to foster, but to academic mentor foster children. And then it reduces the student loan of the child that's in school.

VAN SUSTEREN: $20,000.

LANDRIEU: $20,000. But the wonderful thing about is, one of the foster care children said to me today, "You know, senator, when I get to college, I'm going to mentor, get my student loans reduced, and I want to be a mentor to foster care."

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think this one gripped you?

O'DONNELL: You know, I was a kid who needed someone to stand up for me. My mom died, there was a lot of abuse in my house. And, luckily, I met a teacher, a 26 year old public-school teacher who was a math teacher. I was a new kid. I had run away from the school. And she asked to have me as her study hall assistant in eight period. And I wouldn't talk to her. I would look down at the desk. But she did not give up. And she taught me that the way to save a kid is to love them back to life, hands on, one at time.

VAN SUSTEREN: You ever keep track of her?

O'DONNELL: Yes. In fact, I'm the godmother of her two children. And she died four years ago of breast cancer, my second mother, same disease. But her eldest daughter, Jessie, just had a baby boy. And they are my family. And at the funeral, I sat in the back row with the rest of her family that she welcomed into at the age of 13. I have no idea why she did that, but she was essentially my mom from the time I was 13 on. And I was really lucky. But I know the value of one on one. And you can't do it by writing a check. You have to do it looking in the face of a child in need to remember the child you were.

VAN SUSTEREN: And there's a screening tonight --


VAN SUSTEREN: -- of the movie -- actually, February 28 it was on Lifetime, I guess, your movie.

O'DONNELL: Yes. And it had a lot of effect of foster care, because - -

VAN SUSTEREN: "America," is it?

O'DONNELL: The name of it is "America," based on a novel written by a woman who was a foster care advocate. But it's very realistic, and it really show people what -- it took eight years to get it made, because a lot of movie studios were like "I don't know that people want to see that. It's a little depressing." I'm like, "It's realistic."

And like most Americans, I didn't know about foster care until 10 years ago when I went into a group home, and I saw toddler beds, and all the kids were sexually abused. And I was like, this is like an orphanage. How come they're not in foster homes? These are all over the country, residential homes.

And so began my education. And then I became a foster parent. Then we started with the foster kids.

And it's a cause that doesn't get enough attention, and it really, really, needs it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Rosie, you're busy. Do you miss "The View" at all?

O'DONNELL: Not really. I miss my own show.

I sort of miss the people, like the backstage. You were talking about your crew, you know, when you work somewhere for a long time.

And I was only there for nine months. But at my own show, that was six years, and you sort of miss that, that getting to deal with those -- someone has a baby, somebody is getting married. There's a birthday cake today, the cameraman's birthday. Those things you miss, the dealing with people one on one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you do it again?

O'DONNELL: I think I might. Now all my kids are at school. And I have to tell you, it is very lonely.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to see you, Rosie. And Senator, always nice to see you, and good luck to both of you.

LANDRIEU: Thank you. But she's so good on Capitol Hill we might keep her here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.


Content and Programming Copyright 2009 FOX News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2009 CQ Transcriptions, LLC, which takes sole responsibility for the accuracy of the transcription. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material except for the user's personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon FOX News Network, LLC'S and CQ Transcriptions, LLC's copyrights or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.