As Fostering the Future 2016 comes to a close, I want to thank everyone who has followed along by reading, commenting on and sharing the first-person accounts of state care throughout May. Your engagement is a vital part of raising foster care awareness.
I also want to thank our incredible bloggers for courageously opening up about your time in care, in hopes of making it better for the next child. Please know that your voices are so valuable, and you are all catalysts for change.
You, our bloggers, have inspired us at Children’s Rights in a big way. Reading your personal stories has helped us realize that we can do more to support young people leaving foster care. To that end, we have decided to create an internship program at CR for those who have aged out of care and aspire to be attorneys.
As many of this year’s bloggers can attest, making your way as an adult, following a childhood spent in foster care, is far from easy. One of our bloggers, Valnita, put it this way: “I felt like I was being thrown to the wolves, not having parents to rely on. I had to figure out everything myself.” Another, Tiffany, wrote that when she left care at 18, “I had never used a stove, driven a car, nor managed bills. I didn’t even have a high school diploma … Hunger drove me to keep my head above water.”
Unfortunately, hardships like those faced by Valnita and Tiffany are all too common. After all, only 4 percent of youth who age out of the system earn a four-year college degree by age 26. Nearly 31 percent find themselves homeless or couch surfing. And as many as 74 percent of men who lived in state care report having been incarcerated.
So what is the key to beating the odds? As we learned from some of our bloggers, having a strong support network, or at least someone to rely on, certainly helps.
Catiria survived an abusive, unstable childhood and found refuge in the home of her foster parents. “They made me feel safe, special and loved for the first time in my life, and they gave me a reason to want to live. They helped to pick up my broken pieces to try to make me feel whole again,” she wrote.
Another blogger, Chelsea, who graduated law school this month, shared that her caseworker, educational counselor, and the other young women in her group home helped her tremendously. “The child welfare system worked for me, but that does not mean our advocacy should stop,” Chelsea wrote. “Even when a young person has a positive experience and improved livelihood from foster care, there are still ways to make the system better.”
At Children’s Rights, as we use the power of the courts to reform state care, we get to know many brave young people who advocate to make state care better for their foster brothers and sisters. We also meet committed individuals who want to be part of a child’s support system and change the trajectory of a young person’s life. For the first time, we are marrying the two with our new legal internship program. The initiative will offer invaluable career experience to former foster youth right in our own office, and allow them to interface with some of the most passionate and skilled attorneys in the non-profit advocacy world.
If you are thinking about ways to become more involved in the support networks that help young people thrive after foster care, please consider making a gift to the project by clicking on the “Donate Now” link on our webpage. Small contributions have the power to make a big impact. Together, we can ensure that our internships are accessible to ambitious young people who strive to make a difference in the world, and not just the ones who have a financial cushion. We can help them achieve their goals—and, in turn, empower the next generation in state care.
Sandy Santana is the executive director of Children’s Rights.
Published on May 30, 2016 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign.