Saturday, January 27, 2007

Youth Forum on Aging Out of Foster Care




Yesterday, I attended a youth forum in Stark County. Approximately 60 foster care youth were in attendence. Topics covered included: housing, college vs. working full-time, mentors and advocates, and independent living.

The video above is of a young man named Jeremy, performing a gospel rap song that he has created about his experiences in foster care. All this young man wants is a mentor -- and he hasn't found one yet.

Here are some of Jeremy's insightful comments during the forum:

-"One of our suggestions (about independent living classes) was 'timeliness of service, because it's way too late to ask us these questions after we've been in foster care for so long."

-"We're gonna go from foster care to just being flat broke."

-"Adults need to come and see us when we're doing something good, like sports or this forum, not just if we are bad or need counseling. Because everybody doesn't need counseling."

-"If I ever get a mentor, he shouldn't be lazy. I mean, I don't want to sit in an office and just talk, I want to do active things, like sports, and get to know someone that way."

Many of the older male teenagers at the forum seemed disillusioned. One young said that he had been in foster care since he was a baby and that his foster parents had flat-out told him that the odds were against his ever being adopted "because I was black, a boy and came from a bad family." They basically crushed his hopes early.

Another young man named Richard said, "We're just here to make it better for the next generation. I've been in foster care since I was three years old, and I'm 16 now. It ain't gonna happen for me."

I spent time after that session talking with Richard. He is sixteen years old, and thinks that his life is already over. I told him that I myself as a foster care alumna had lived several lifetimes since I was 16 years old. His life is not over. His cards are not all played out. Maybe he hasn't really had a chance to be a kid, but Richard is still very young and has many chances ahead of him.

Interestingly enough, there was an iPod raffle at the end of the forum, and Richard won the iPod! As he came up to collect his prize, I said to him, "The man without hope wins an iPod. There is plenty of hope for you, Richard."

Lottery of caseworkers: Two sisters with two different caseworkers attended the forum. The first caseworker was willing to take the older sister to visit five different colleges. The younger sister's caseworker refused to take her at all.

Suggestions made by the youth during the forum:

1.) Hands-on learning of independent living skills:
-Youth want the opportunity to live in an apartment for one week by themselves
-Would like to shadow a college student for a day, and see how they juggle school/work

2.) Early planning:
-Youth want to start visiting colleges during their sophomore year
-Upward Bound/Gear Up programs should serve more foster youth, not limit to high achievers
-Project Rebuild: Alternates one week of construction work, one week of education

3.) Don’t expect us to know your hidden rules:
-"In each placement, there are different rules/expectations, and we’re expected to know them"
-"In preparing for independent living, we should be making some of our own rules"

4.) Allow us more freedom:
-Foster youth go from total restriction to complete freedom, with no support
-Need opportunities to work, volunteer, participate in extra-curricular activities and spend the night at a friend’s house without having to go through so many channels

5.) Consider our need for transportation: The state should provide car insurance and allow foster care youth to get a driver’s license.

6.) If you want to connect with us, invest time:
-Would-be mentors should take teens out just to talk, or do a sports activity
-If the teen doesn’t open up right away, just be patient and consistent: invest the time

7.) One-stop shopping for our resources vs. misinformation/lack of information

8.) Let us evaluate foster parents/group home staff/caseworkers: They evaluate us.


Labels: , , ,


Comments:
I work in foster care and one of the saddest things I saw recently was a client who got an Ipod for Christmas. She was excited but she does not really have access to a computer and does not know how to download anything onto it, and unfortunately no one has really helped her with this. She could not figure out why it was not charging and I told her she had to plug it into a computer. This 15-year-old female has been in custody for most of her life. I tink forums for older foster care teens is a great idea. If only the ones in charge or with the power would listen!!
 
It is so sad for me to hear about these kids who didn't get the chance to be adopted and raised by a family who loves them. We're one of the families waiting for kids like that and it seems like the system is working against us... we'll keep fighting.
 
Hi Lisa :)

I just read your comment on my blog. It is so good to 'meet' you!! :) I am so grateful that you are in the world; what great work you are doing for the Lord in helping these orphans. The Bible says,'This is true religion: to help the orphans and the widows in their afflictions.' As you already know, I have been in the system too- but not nearly as much as my sisters have been. They are 17 and 19 now, and have never been adopted-just moved from foster care facility or home, time and time again. I will never understand why they were not adopted. Sadly, I have heard that many people take in foster kids just for the paycheck :( I worked as caseworker for kids in foster care at one point and I think I saw a lot of this. I am sure that not all foster parents are like this, though! I wonder if you'd mind me sending a link for your blog to my sisters? They would really benefit from seeing it I think. My sister Shannon is an aspiring journalist so it sounds like you guys share a passion, too. Thanks so much for psosting on my blog! It is great to meet you!! I will definately be checking in on your blogs !Stacey :)
 
Anonymous,
That is a really important point about ipods. Hmmm... maybe if it came with some prepaid downloads from ipods and a charger? I need to ask my husband - he knows more about this that I do!

Amanda,
Please do continue to persevere. I'm just an email away anytime, if you have a day when you feel particularly discouraged, and need some encouragement. This would also help me, because I would like to know specifics about how good foster parents are being discouraged by "the system."

Stacey,
Please feel free to share my blog with your sisters. We 'foster care alumni' need to stick together! I would love to get to know Shannon, and learn more about journalism from her. Also, you three should check out www.fostercarealumni.org

Lisa
 
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Налоговики - миллионеры... БУСАРЕВ ВЯЧЕСЛАВ ВАЛЕНТИНОВИЧ Украина, АР Крым, г.Симферополь.

Не для кого не секрет, что экономика Украины в настоящее время находится в кризисе. Не смотря на это, есть специалисты, которые под ширмой государственных служащих работают против государства, которое доверило им занимать высокие должности, оплачивает достойную заработную плату, но …?!
Одним из таких деятелей, является БУСАРЕВ ВЯЧЕСЛАВ ВАЛЕНТИНОВИЧ - председатель налоговой службы АР Крым. Личность, которую можно поставить в пример многим политикам, ведь Вячеслав Бусарев получил старт в карьере государственного служащего когда у власти была Партия Регионов, однако, остался при должности и до настоящего времени, когда Партия Регионов находится в оппозиции, а все почему?! Все очень просто, В.Бусарев работает на свой карман, а не для бюджета Украины, «кормит» вышестоящее руководство ГНА Украины и остается «своим» при любой власти в стране. Перейду к конкретике, подтверждающей все выше изложенное.
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Все вышеуказанные предприятия «помогли» своим контрагентам скрыть от налогообложения сотни миллионов гривен, а это бюджетные деньги страны. Соответственно, за «спасибо», т.е. бесплатно, указанные предприятия не существовали бы. Поэтому предприимчивый В.Бусарев обложил данную деятельность «налогом в свой карман», а именно, ставка этого «налога» составила 0,8% от валового оборота деятельности каждого из указанных предприятий, а это в итоге миллионы гривен. Но, как Вы понимаете, без поддержки сверху, такая «деятельность» не существовала бы. Поэтому В.Бусарев должен отдавать некоторую часть денег заместителю ГНА Украины В.Кайзерману, который взамен, за это поддерживает В.Бусарева и ежемесячно либо снижает планы поступления налоговой Крыма в бюджет, либо при угрозе его невыполнения корректирует в сторону уменьшения.
На указанном примере работы В.Бусарева, становится понятно, каким образом налоговики становятся миллионерами.
 
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