Everyone has a story to tell, but not everyone wants to share it. I didn’t want to share mine until I heard my experience could help pass a bill to get an ombudsman appointed for foster youth. I was on board immediately. Foster Advocates, (a nonprofit in Minnesota dedicated to ensuring foster youth have the same opportunities and outcomes as everyone else), and I worked on sharing my story so that I could testify to help pass the bill.
Mine is not an ordinary case. I was placed with a family, which may have seemed like an open and shut case. I moved around a lot and never truly had a stable household. My dad moved me from place to place every few months so no one would see red flags. As a result, I moved 20 times by the time I was 18. This instability has affected every part of my life.
For three years I was not allowed to see my siblings. I was always told, “it’s up to your dad,” or “if you talk to their bio mom, maybe you can see them.” My grandparents and I constantly fought to see my siblings, but we were always told the same thing. Tired of getting the runaround, I eventually gave up. I wanted answers, and I wanted the truth. I have never gotten them.
I was terrified to share my story, but after I testified I felt at peace. When the bill was passed, I realized that sharing my story helped to open people’s eyes. I now understand the power of an emotional story.
Izzy Wagner is an advocate who attends college at Saint Cloud Technical and Community College. Wagner interned at Quality Parenting Initiative – Minnesota, making presentations to multiple organizations, including the Minnesota Social Services Association. Wagner plans on using their voice to help other system-impacted youth by continuously speaking up, raising questions, and helping to pass more legislation.