I am a Black woman on a mission to recreate and reimagine the foster care system. It is what I was put on this earth to do.
I have a deep knowledge of child welfare. I grew up in the Kansas foster care system. Even as a little kid, I was good at advocating for myself. And for other kids too. It just comes naturally.
I have ten siblings. I was never legally adopted, but my Soul Family took me in and advocated for me. They supported me in everything I did, especially my education. My grandfather used to pay me for A’s and B’s. No money for C’s. As a child, I thought that was crazy because C’s get degrees! He is one of the reasons I went on to get my Bachelor’s and Master’s.
My grandfather taught me about love. My favorite quote by Bell Hooks, “Love as a practice of freedom”, helped me learn and appreciate the love in a different way when thinking about transformation to the movement of recreating and reimagining the foster care system. Love is key to the movement! It’s love that changes people’s lives. It’s love in those relationships that have an impact. It’s never the services or the money that I received. It was the people who showed me love and love, as a verb! I believe in love to change this system and impact our youth in the system. In my work with young people who lived in foster care, I make sure they feel loved. Every child deserves love. And to know they are loved.
When one of my young people says “Miss Alexandria, I’m not well and I need to talk.” We talk and I explain to them that it’s ok to be vulnerable and show when you feel overwhelmed or unstable. You shouldn’t have to look strong all the time. Youths shouldn’t be afraid to tell their case worker that they aren’t okay in fear of being labeled unstable. They should know it’s OK not to be OK. That’s all part of being human! None of us are okay 24/7. They deserve a childhood where they are met with love, empathy, and understanding.
I am proud to be the inaugural Children’s Rights Arthur Gochman Child and Family Advocacy Fellow, created to incorporate a person with lived experience in child welfare into the Children’s Rights team. The Fellowship is named for Arthur Gochman—father of CR board member and staunch supporter Molly Gochman—for his commitment to social and educational justice for kids.
I love being part of the CR team – the lawyers, policy folks, and the board. My job is to use my lived and advocacy expertise to ensure that our strategies for transforming systems are as powerful as they can be. I take this responsibility very seriously. Child welfare is heart work. When organizations listen to people like me there is a shift in power and dynamics at that table. We can’t afford to get it wrong anymore, these our children’s lives we are talking about. If systems, folks or organizations are getting it wrong, I’m calling you out about it. The time is NOW to get it right!
Children’s Rights is a different organization than most. Their work makes things better for thousands of kids at a time, not just one. I believe that touching one youth’s life will have ripple effect on many different lives. Remember that when you touch one youth’s life, you plant seeds that will later blossom, which will help impact millions of people’s lives. That’s the power of love.
We all need to use our unique gifts to transform the system. My mother was good at finding resources – that was her way of helping. My way is fixing problems through advocacy, policy, law, and love. I plan on fixing a few in my new role at Children’s Rights.
Thank you for listening!
Alexandria Ware is a 2022 – 2023 Arthur Gochman Child and Family Advocacy Fellow with Children’s Rights.