Voices of Foster Youth Amplified in Second Annual Campaign

NEW YORK, NY – On May 1, in recognition of National Foster Care Month, national advocacy organization Children’s Rights will launch its second annual Fostering the Future campaign to raise public awareness about life in state care.

The campaign’s website, www.fosteringthefuture.com, will feature a blog post each day of May from someone affected by the child welfare system. The posts provide glimpses into the experiences some young people have inside a system that produces troubling outcomes.

Nearly 640,000 children spend time in U.S. child welfare every year. More than 14,000 of the roughly 101,000 foster kids available for adoption have been waiting for five years or longer to be adopted. At any given time, about 24,000 kids live in group homes and about 34,000 live in institutions. And at least 25 states do not meet the federal standard for keeping children safe from abuse and neglect when they are in care.

To show the faces behind these numbers, Children’s Rights asked former foster youth throughout the U.S. how going through care affected their lives and whether they think foster care should change. They call for states to make concrete fixes like recruiting more loving foster families, providing mentors for youth, giving workers lower caseloads so they have more time for each child and better preparing young people to be on their own. The experiences that led to these recommendations are powerful.

Some bloggers described the silver linings of foster care: “My foster mother, Connie, took the time to teach my foster brothers and me valuable things like cooking, writing and how to find employment … Without the stability of that home I don’t know where I would be today,” Vannak wrote. Another blogger, Ollie, said she had “a fantastic group of caseworkers … They never gave up on me or my goals.” But other writers provided more grim details:

  • “Imagine a childhood like mine. One in which you cannot touch the refrigerator; you sleep in a filthy room and are treated like a servant in a home where the family wants you only for the money you bring in,” wrote Sixto. “I was screamed at, beaten with a belt, and with fists. I have been choked, slapped and starved.”
  • “I was like a newborn baby again, but this time I was responsible for my well-being – nobody was there to help me or check in on me … I lived from couch to couch,” Shandreka wrote about trying to make it on her own after being in the system.
  • “I was 16 when I was placed in foster care, and I went through four different placements in as many months. I felt like my life was in complete chaos,” wrote Kaylyn. “Not knowing what might happen to me was terrifying.”

Other bloggers detailed hardships like being prescribed powerful psychotropic medications, split from brothers and sisters and living in institutions.

This May’s writers are the second group to share their stories for Fostering the Future. CR decided to make the campaign an annual endeavor after receiving heartening feedback to last May’s project. “The young men and women are amazing,” one woman wrote to CR last year. “What an eye opener for those of us not involved in the system.” The organization plans to build upon the success of the inaugural campaign to continue to raise foster care awareness.

“Our bloggers have shown courage by speaking up and sharing their experiences with the world, and their voices will go far in educating people about the impact foster care has on kids’ lives,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights. “Some children find foster care to be a refuge, but it is unconscionable that, all too often, child welfare systems fail to keep kids safe or address their needs.”

Throughout May, the blogs and accompanying photos, submitted by former foster youth, will be featured on the campaign website and promoted through the Children’s Rights Facebook page and Twitter account.

“We encourage people to take the time to read these highly personal accounts, share them with friends and family, and help us raise awareness about what life can be like for the hundreds of thousands of kids who must spend time in state care each year,” said Lowry.