Saturday, April 14, 2007

My friend Lupe speaks out

Photo of Lupe from
Below is Lupe's guest opinion, as published in the Tuscon Citizen on April 13, 2007.

Guest Opinion: Don't shortchange Arizona's foster kids

At age 5, I entered Arizona's foster-care system. That was the beginning of a series of childhood separations - from my sister, my home, my culture, from everything that mattered.

I was one of the more than 9,000 Arizona children who, at any given time, are in foster care.

Although foster care was intended to be temporary, Arizona's foster children spend an average of two birthdays in care, and more than 40 percent move more than three times while waiting for a permanent family.

I spent 19 years in foster care. During that time, I lived in 10 places, including state, private and residential foster care. I attended five high schools.

The most difficult placement was when I was a junior in high school. The foster family I had been living with moved across the country, and no placements were available for me then.

I was sent to a large institution with locked units. Soon I realized I was the only foster youth there, and the only reason I had been placed there was because I was without a home.

Waiting for a loving family, I ended up in a facility designed for young people who had broken the law.

My experiences led me to become an advocate for foster-care reform. I don't want any other child to experience what I did.

Along with other current and former foster youth, I went to Washington, D.C., to participate in an event sponsored by "Kids Are Waiting: Fix Foster Care Now," a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

A new guide to the U.S. foster-care system, "Time for Reform: Too Many Birthdays in Foster Care," was released at the event.

Wearing T-shirts that read "Kids Can't Wait," we delivered birthday cakes to each House member in honor of the 513,000 foster children who will spend their birthdays in foster care this year, waiting for a family.

We wanted to let Congress know how important it is to reform foster care. We have waited too long for changes to a system that is designed to keep children safe, but instead separates them from their parents, brothers and sisters, and places them in limbo.

Just changing the way the federal government pays for services could help prevent some children from being placed in foster care and help others to be placed in safe, permanent families more quickly.

Because of my experiences, I am waiting for all foster children to be able live permanently with a loving family.

Frequent moves - common in foster care - can be upsetting to children who never know how long they will stay or where they will go next.

About 20,000 children each year "celebrate" their birthdays by aging out of foster care. I was one of those children. I grew up with no lifetime connection with a family. When I was in care, all I hoped for was to be wanted.

I hope Congress will allow more money to be used to keep families together and children out of foster care in the first place or to limit the time they spend in the system.

This flexibility would also create and support permanent, loving families through reunification, adoption and guardianship.

The need to reform federal financing is urgent. Today, more than half a million foster children are waiting, as I did, for a permanent family to love, nurture and protect them.

They have waited long enough.

Guadalupe Ortiz-Tovar of Tucson spent 19 years in Arizona's foster-care system. She is currently a coordinator for In My Shoes, a peer mentoring program.

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Such good comments. I always get something valuable when I come to your site.

I whine about how long I have waited to become a parent through adopting from foster care. But then I see faces of kids I inquired about in July, August, September, and so forth still on the photolistings and I know that their wait is much longer and much harder.
This is simply one of the coolest blogs I have ever encountered. God bless you for sharing and turning your experience into something to help others.
Thank you Lupe, and thanks to you, too Lisa, for providing this! The experiences of those of us in and from foster care gives us a great deal of expertise and it's time for us to USE IT!!! Please join our efforts as a national voice at Through our organization, Foster Care Alumni of America, all of us--both alumni of the system and people who care about what happens to foster youth--can help fix foster care!
I'm sending love to all of my brothers and sisters from foster care and to all of you who make us your priority. From Misty at FCAA.
I want to second what Misty posted.

To read more about Foster Care Alumni of America, you can visit the web addy that she posted, and also read my recent blog entry:
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