Wednesday, November 01, 2006

2006 It's My Life conference - Lisa's experience

I have had the most amazing time at the 2006 It's My Life Conference, sponsored by the Casey Foundation. This is their 4th annual conference to support youth aging out of foster care. I attended for the first time.

Friday night, the night before my flight, I got a call from Foster Care Alumni of America asking me to take charge of all the youth activities in the "Living Room," since Misty Stenslie, the person in charge, was very sick. I said, yes.

It was a lot of work... The phrase "sleepless in Seattle" has an entirely new meaning for me now, because I totally didn't get much sleep.

But it was so rewarding and so much fun! After my flight arrived on Saturday, I sorted through the boxes that had been Fed-Exed to me and pulled everything together, including creating an outline of shifts for volunteers to help me supervise the Living Room.

Activities: There were two afternoon workshops on Sunday and Monday. On Sunday night, I hosted an ice cream social, as well as other activities. One Monday night, we had a karaoke and DDR (Dance Dance Revolution) contest and the winner got to keep the Play Station, mike and software.

Tuesday morning, I announced the prizes for participants who had made postcards to share a part of their experience in foster care. We did a drawing; prizes included an ipod, digital camera, Best Buy gift cards, Target gifts cards and coupons for various fast food establishments.

I had lots of food coupons and so I was able to reward youth for taking on leadership roles, such as judging the contest, and also reward chaperones who volunteered to work shifts helping to supervise the Living Room activities.

I also met the most amazing people. Back in 1989, when I aged out of foster care at age 16, I felt very alone (at least for the first two years, until I moved into a Methodist dorm and was surrounded by college friends who became my "family").

Spending so much time with foster youth, I heard many of their stories... I was both happy to hear of how things in foster care have progressed in some areas, and saddened to hear how they still need to be improved in others.

The three-day conference was filled with interesting contacts and conversations -- drama and adventures... I left feeling very exhausted, but also rejuvenated and incredibly happy.

I will share what I have learned in upcoming blog entries...

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I chose to post anonymously so my teacher cannot read what I am writing you about. You left me a very helpful comment on my blog "The Victim of Victims". You brought up some old issues for me by mentioning that children of drug addicts are sometimes 'pimped out' for drug money. My girlfriend experienced just that when she was with her biological parents. I have had a difficult time dealing with that magnitude of pain, knowing that I cannot do anything to fix what happened to her. What would you tell someone in my situation? Any advice would be very helpful. My email address is Thank you - JRW
Anonymous poster,

I am so terribly sorry to hear what happened to your girlfriend. Thank you for caring about her and wanting to support her through the aftermath...

I am actually thinking of proposing a workshop for It's My Life conference 2007 on sexual intimacy.

Because at the 2006 IML conference, there was a session called "Sexual Jeopardy" which just focused on STD's and birth control -- but intimacy is so much more than just the physical.

Foster youth and alumni often struggle with issues of trust, carry the weight of shame and scars from abuse, and find it hard to create and maintain adult attachments.

The reason that I volunteer for Foster Care Alumni of America is because I believe in our goal of a "collective voice" to make a difference --- and also our collective insights in order to provide support and promote healing.

You can't "fix" what happened to your girlfriend, just as my husband couldn't erase my being raped at 16 years old.

But life is redemptive. People are resilient. Healing is possible.

I will email you soon,
hey lisa,
i had the greatest of times at the conferance and i am really glad that i met you there (ms.flower)
i hope to attend next years conferance as well and if i do i hope to see you there!!!
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