Power of One
For every foster youth that dances across the stage with their diploma, there is another foster youth who lost too much education in the system and fell through the cracks. By the end of college, only 3 out of 100 youth in care will obtain their bachelor’s degree. 1 This is no coincidence and this is only a couple of the many alarming facts that remind The Summit Heard Around the World us there is a continual need for policy reform and empowerment within the foster care system. However, it’s not so much the actual statistics that empower us to be advocates, but the stories behind them. These stories depict the obstacles that we, as well as our siblings (foster or biological), have had to overcome.
I’ve had the amazing opportunity to advocate for foster youth in many different ways since 2011. In 2011, I was living in a group home in California and would frequently go “AWOL” from the home to go to a foster youth hub. There was a group of people that would meet right across from where I would sit. They would always have KFC or pizza, and that’s already tasty, but when you live in a group home and you know that Hank cooks tuna casserole on Friday nights, that’s motivation. So I went over there and they told me all about what foster youth advocacy was and about California Youth Connection (CYC). From then on I would sporadically go to meetings, each time listening more than the last.
On the weekend of my thirteenth birthday, I got to attend my first conference with CYC. That conference taught me a plethora of things. But most importantly it taught me that I had a voice, and I was not alone in my experiences or my burning passion to advocate based off of those experiences. From that point, I made the decision that a lot of us make — to dedicate our lives to bettering the foster care system. Although I didn’t know what I would do exactly, I knew I would do it. Flash forward a few years and I became the first Chairman of Policy for CYC, working first-hand to eradicate group homes statewide and battling the doctors that over-medicate our foster youth.
This summer, I have also had the amazing opportunity to attend CYC’s Summer Leadership Conference, as well as Mockingbird’s Youth Leadership Summit, which landed back to back. It has opened my eyes to hear such powerful youth voices from down in L.A. to up in Seattle, and to see the strength of both the youth at Mockingbird and the policy issues they selected and presented. It is so refreshing to know that whether I’m fifty miles away from home or five hundred, there are people just as dedicated to making foster care a better place. I thank Mockingbird for that. Above all else it is important that as a community of foster youth advocates we stand as one, not because we are alone, but because we are united.