My entire life I felt like an outsider looking in on a world that didn’t seem to notice me. I grew up in the Montana foster care system after being removed from my abusive biological family. I went through 11 foster homes, two groups homes, a children’s home….and countless respite providers (weekend homes, when the family and the child need a break). I was a statistic, and not really a good one. I had no direction, lots of unresolved trauma and issues from care, and I needed to find myself.
In 2005, my life and world changed forever. I applied for a FosterClub All-Star position, and I was chosen! I was sent to Seaside Oregon where I was educated, mentored, and allowed to express myself. I put my emotions, experiences, and knowledge together with 9 other interns from across the country – the one similar factor we all had in common was the foster care system. Besides that, all of us were different. We had different life views, various levels of trauma, some had lots of placements and others only one or two – the list can go on.
I traveled the country speaking to foster youth, social workers, state departments, and politicians from across country. I literally worked with thousands of people from 2005 and on. While I was the one teaching, I often ended up being the one taught.
I learned that my story (as bad as it was), had value. I learned that as a person, I have value. Most importantly, I learned that I was not alone. Half a million children are currently in the US foster care system or about to enter it – still experiencing some of the same abuse, neglect, and trauma.
I realized that I had a duty to my foster brothers and sisters to speak up, act out, and take action. Myself, along with many others, worked hard with Pew Charitable Trust and other partner organizations to create true change at the federal level. We launched into a national campaign to reform foster care and provide opportunities for my foster brothers and sisters to not only have a chance, but also hopefully succeed. The Kid’s Are Waiting campaign was successful and culminated with the passing of unique legislation in 2008. For the first time in my life, I was part of something much bigger than me – but I was a part of making a difference.
I was fortunate enough to be one of the first generation of National Outstanding Young Leaders in 2008. This achievement pushed me forward in life, passion, and understanding.
When I was an All-Star, my hope was “to be the voice and light for those in care, that often felt that they were alone in a dark world.” I achieved this – and now it is time to pass the torch. I ask that you join me in helping other youth from across the country be recognized for their hard work and dedication to improving the lives of their peers in the foster care system.
Please donate today – help us move the next generation forward!