About five years ago, I worked on a national policy campaign to reform the foster care system. I spent a lot of time with child welfare experts and researchers, policymakers and advocates. But it wasn't until I read some of the personal stories shared by young members of FosterClub that I truly understood how lost many children and youth feel when it's not safe for them to remain in their birth family and they end up in foster care. I heard dozens and dozens of youth share how it felt to never see their younger sister again, having to move schools, not being able to go to friend's house for a sleepover, and feeling like THEY had done something wrong.
These FosterClub youth came to Washington to advocate for change. They spoke with courage and strength in many settings to make the case for reform: before groups of hundreds and in the offices of some of the most powerful politicians in the nation. And together, they helped change a gigantic, bureaucratic system for the better (the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act passed in 2008).
FosterClub has helped create a youth-led movement to support children in foster care and those who have left. FosterClub youth directly train youth in foster care through state leadership conferences. Each summer, a small group is selected for intensive leadership training at the FosterClub headquarters, and these young leaders continue to advocate on behalf of their "brothers and sisters" in foster care when they go back to their home states. They speak out for the hundreds of thousands of children in care who are waiting for a safe, permanent family.
In doing all this, FosterClub teaches young people how to find their voice, and supports not only their advocacy efforts, but also their overall journey to becoming adults. FosterClub provides information about what children's rights are in foster care, and connects youth with information and resources to help them transition to adulthood more successfully.
This campaign, the 100 Young Leaders campaign, celebrates the youth and young adults who have donated their time to make things better for children still in care.
FosterClub currently is able to reach about 35,000 children and youth currently in foster care, or recently released from care. But there are nearly 400,000 children in foster care today who could benefit from the information and support that FosterClub provides. I hope you'll join me in donating to this wonderful organization, for which I'm honored to be on the board of directors. Thanks for considering it. Together, with these inspirational young people, we can do better.