Youth voices inspire change!
October is foster youth voice month
Every voice matters! Using your voice effectively is a powerful tool to affect change. This October, join Selfless Love Foundation for National Foster Youth Voice Month.
The campaign aims to elevate the voices of youth with lived experience in the child welfare system to initiate changes in every state across the nation.
Join us to inspire change!
Every voice matters. Using your voice effectively is a powerful tool to affect change. That’s why Selfless Love Foundation is declaring October as Foster Youth Voice Month. Through impactful stories from young people who have been in the child welfare system, the national campaign will help to change the lives of foster children now and in the future.
Selfless Love Foundation’s foster youth initiative, One Voice Impact (OVI), which provides opportunities for young people to work alongside leaders to improve the child welfare system, has successfully advocated for research to improve independent living services and developed a network of youth councils in Florida. For Foster Youth Voice Month, Selfless Love Foundation will collaborate with youth councils in 35 states, including Texas, California, New York, and Massachusetts.
FOSTER YOUTH VOICE MONTH AMBASSADOR, LYNN JOHNSOn
“By working together, we can change the world for children in foster care. We are appealing to local, state, and national leaders to issue proclamations declaring October as Foster Youth Voice Month.” – Lynn Johnson
We are elevating youth voices across the nation!
Below are personal stories from youth across the country.
Lake City, FL
My name is Bilquis Thompson, and this is my story. When I was 14, I was separated from my family and placed in foster care. It was tough on me growing up because I came from a pretty big family. I was separated from my five siblings indefinitely. It was a heartbreaking and traumatizing experience because they were all I had ever known.
As I grew up in the system, things didn’t get better. Being unable to speak to or see any immediate family took a massive toll on my life. I have been to many different cities and homes in Florida due to my not having a permanent home.
NURTURING ROOTS: EMBRACING UNCONVENTIONAL BONDS IN FOSTER CARE
San Antonio, TX
Going through the foster care system was a journey that challenged my resilience and emotional well-being. While I longed for stability and a place to call home, the reality was a series of transient experiences. Amid the uncertainty, I was fortunate to find supportive adults and form permanent connections that shaped my life in unexpected ways.
My journey took a unique turn when I was adopted by my grandmother. Although she provided a roof over my head, she wasn’t emotionally expressive or affectionate. It was through my interactions with teachers and kind-hearted strangers who took a genuine liking to me that I began to experience the power of meaningful connections.
My Angel in Human Form
I live in California, and I am a little bit tense writing about my fears because I haven’t really shared them with anyone in the past. I feel this is an opportunity for me to help people by sharing my experience and talking about who helped me come out of the protective shell that I lived in due to the hurt I experienced in the past from people who neglected me. This is my story. I am a highly sensitive person and I never noticed until my parents passed away in a ghastly motor accident.
This was the most difficult period for me because I sought comfort and I needed to lean on someone, to confide in someone, to pour out my fears of not being able to do everything I’ve ever wished I could do and how much I missed my father. I knew already as a teenage boy that you do not get to show your feelings as society expected us to be strong, but I wasn’t.
Past Present Future
I have always been the only girl in my family, and I was never good at saying no. I didn’t know what was right or wrong. I ended up getting hurt and felt like I didn’t have anyone. Like me, teens need guidance and help to find the right direction. Determination and support lead to success. I want my life to be an example that helps others believe they can succeed. Being in the foster system doesn’t define you! When young people know someone is rooting for them to keep going, they have the potential to be great in life. Just one permanent connection can change that for you!
No matter where you come from, you can succeed. I grew up without a father and barely had anyone I felt comfortable enough to talk to. When I was younger, I was a victim of rape. During that time, I thought a lot about who cared about me and my needs. Having permanent and supportive connections in my life helped me to be strong.
Don't lose hope
I feel better and have greater personal pleasure in my life when I am connected to the people I love. I’m satisfied with my life when I feel connected. From my experience, those who are connected are less prone to experience issues with their physical and mental health. Healthy connections can make you feel more valuable and included, as well as less lonely.
I would like to begin by thanking the BCFS Health and Human Services employees. Dolores and Felicia really helped me, and I am eternally grateful. They set me on a path that helped shape who I am today because I was in a really bad position. I want to make them proud and show them that their efforts were not in vain.
St. George, UT
When it comes to foster care, there are a lot of complexities to each individual’s experience, from the kind of placement you’re in, to the kind of mental health struggles that you might be facing. It’s important to remember that each person that enters the foster care system is treated as an individual and is given the kind of respect that every human being deserves.
I was adopted into a transracial family at birth and was raised by them most of my early childhood. During my adolescence, I started to struggle a lot with my identity and my mental health. I had to be placed back into the foster care system. During this time, I was never placed with a foster family, and instead, was placed into mental health and residential programs. During that time in those programs, I was never able to express myself as an individual and was constantly being stripped away of everything that made me unique.
Permanent connections and supportive people are vital to your well-being. Having someone to lean on during difficult times cannot be overemphasized. We all need someone to help us navigate life’s challenges and offer us the support we need to succeed.
Growing up in a dysfunctional household, I often felt like I had no one in my corner. I constantly teetered between thoughts of not feeling as though I had the right to fully express myself and feeling that nobody would care to listen. That changed when I got to high school. I was blessed to have a teacher who made it a point to make me feel that anything and everything I had to say was valid and essential.
just hold on
I’ve been telling my story for a few years now, and at first I was always embarrassed by it. I felt as though I was just a huge charity case to everyone around me. I felt like the poster child for a sad black girl.
It’s not easy to say, “Hey, I’m young with two kids and no parents,” to a bunch of strangers. It’s not easy to say, “Hey, I have no one.” What I felt like saying was, “Hey I’m vulnerable and I have a sad life.” I felt like I was in one of those sad commercials where they want you to donate to organizations, like the ones in Africa where they claim their money is going to “poor” villages.
oversharing the hidden shame of advocacy
Shame. We’ve all felt it. It’s a common side effect of advocacy work that no one really talks about, otherwise known as oversharing. Oversharing is the unwanted disclosure of information or details that leave us feeling raw, anxious, and distressed; it’s often a signal of unhealed trauma.
I was recently a guest speaker on a podcast that a colleague of mine produces centered around child welfare, and I shared a detail of my story that I regretted. This overshare left my nerves raw, and when I heard that my fumble made the final cut and was posted for the world to hear, I felt sick.
when you find your voice
“When you find your voice, you don’t find some new thing inside of you. Instead, you find a little more of you.” – Dan Cumberland
Finding your voice initially seems scary because you worry about how people will react to what you have to say. But, when you speak your truth and advocate for what matters to you, you find peace. As a former foster care youth, I didn’t believe I had much to say, or that anyone cared about what I had to say. But during a home visit one day I found my voice.
the power of a child's voice
A child’s voice. What does that mean to you? When you think about yourself at a young age, do you remember a time when your parents did not listen to you? Maybe you got in trouble and instead of listening to and accepting your simple explanation for why you did something a certain way, they assumed your motive and punished you according to that assumption. Do you remember how that made you feel? Betrayed maybe, or scared, confused, angry? Maybe even sad or hurt? Or perhaps a mix of all those emotions. Now imagine feeling that on a daily basis as a child of the foster care system.