I want to see a movement gain momentum.
I want to see foster youth loud, proud, and open about their experiences.
It’s happening, for sure. California Youth Connection and the Foster Care Alumni of America are two examples of groups founded by former foster youth, dedicated to making our voices heard. We’re building momentum, but there is always need for more voices to join our choir. We sing the languages of love, longing, loss. We sing of joy, of hope, and of self-discovery.
Finding resources FOR foster youth, BY foster youth is like finding your spare keys in an apartment that hasn’t been cleaned for months. They’re out there, but you’re probably going to get verrry frustrated during your search.
That’s a shame, because, as cliche as it sounds, we are the experts. Even if you’ve worked in the field for 40 years, even if you’ve fostered 60 children, even if you have a degree in early childhood psychology.. if you have not lived through foster care, you don’t know what it’s like. Sorry to be harsh. I don’t mean to take away from the good work that so many people do to help kids. You guys are very valuable and work very hard. I’m only saying that those of us who lived through foster care need to be heard too..
It raises AWARENESS. There are so many things wrong with society, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Children starving in third world countries.. women being denied educational freedom.. environmental destruction. It’s easier to turn a blind eye, especially when the problems are so much bigger than us. Improving the lives of youth in foster care is an area where we can have a direct impact, and that’s why it’s worth our while to get people interested in our cause. There are plenty of things we can do to improve the lot of foster children in our communities. Things like mentoring a child, donating clothing or gifts to youth shelters and group homes, or even becoming a loving foster or adoptive parent.. maybe you can’t save all the foster kids, but that one child will be so grateful. The more people who hear about our experiences, the more people CARE. The more people CARE, the more gets done. You dig?
It HUMANIZES the issues. When we do hear about foster care, it often comes from grim statistics, and it’s hard to sympathize with statistics. While this information has it’s place and is very important, I believe that the stories of people who lived through foster care are crucial to creating lasting change. Hearing that over 300,000 youth are currently in foster care may raise some eyebrows, but that information doesn’t mean much unless a person understands what it means to be in foster care. Going beyond the facts, and getting to the nitty-gritty, raw emotional tales of our lives. Over 300,000 kids is abstract – not to mention, a lot for the brain to process. But one kid’s story.. their pain, confusion, and triumphs.. that’s powerful.
It provides HOPE and COMMUNITY for our fellow fosters. As I’ve mentioned before, being in foster care is alienating. It’s a unique, difficult life experience that few can grasp unless they’ve lived through it. When I left the system, I craved connection with someone who has lived through the darkness of being alone at the hands of the system, someone who knows what it’s like. Someone who’s gone through hell trying to figure out the world. Someone who found out how. Someone who still doesn’t know what they’re doing. I don’t care if you’re working on your Master’s in Social Work or are still struggling to get out of bed in the morning, I just want to know I’m not alone. It would have been amazing if I could do a quick search for “stories of people in foster care” and found content created by people who have been there, instead of the usual “What it’s like to be a foster parent” and “Check out the success stories our organization created” links.
That last point is the most important for me. There are SO. MANY. PEOPLE. who have been through foster care. I wish more of us talked about it.
Blogging is a great medium for sharing our stories with the world. Even if you don’t think you’re a writer, if you can type, your voice is valuable. You don’t have to write poetry, you don’t have to get all fancy. “When I left home, I felt sad I felt scared and alone and I didn’t know when I would see my family again”. is more powerful than silence.
So, to all my brothers and sisters out there.. if you have it in you.. please. Share your story. Paint it. Scream it from the rooftops (only not really, I don’t want you to get hurt/arrested/evicted). Write an editorial. Make a song. GET IT OUT THERE!!