Foster youth encounter unique and difficult life experiences. At YMCA Youth & Family Services, we know that it is important to center the voices of foster youth and kinship caregivers to learn how we can best support them in reaching their personal goals and advocate for positive change in the child welfare system.
As foster care awareness month comes to an end, YFS staff and foster youth program participants share their thoughts on the foster care experience and their vision for the future.
Is there anything you want people to know about the foster care experience that you wish more people understood?
Youth Perspective**: Youth are expected to be adults before they can be kids and because of that, they might not excel academically as they do not have the support from others to support themselves.
YMCA Staff**: As we have previously mentioned, foster youth often face difficult life transitions and Adverse Childhood Experiences at a young age. From not having a stable support system to prioritizing finding a safe home, youth first need their basic needs met before they can prioritize their academics and social life.
Did you seek support through community resources or programs? If so, where and did they help?
Youth Perspective: While I was in the system, I found support through two programs: YMCA Transitional Housing and Promises2Kids Guardian Scholars. Both programs were beneficial to my personal development and education goals. YMCA’s transitional housing program provided support through case management while Promises2Kids provided financial support. These programs connected me to a mentor that has been in my life for five years, helping me become the person I am today.
As a foster youth advocate, what would you like to see change in the system?
YMCA Staff: There is a definite need for systems-level change in the child welfare system. One of the unfortunate things we witness is unfair punishment, such as withholding social services, removing housing, funds, or productivity from a youth’s life. Because they are required to meet so many requirements, youth continue to face one barrier after another. The system has too many rules and regulations and there is a need for a more compassionate and supportive approach to uplifting youth in the system.
What are some things that we can do to help support foster youth and advocate for positive change?
YMCA Staff: We continue to individualize our services to every youth’s unique needs and goals. It is important that we do not group foster youth in one category. Young people have their own identities and goals that are valuable and deserve our support and investment. We work alongside foster youth to help them reach their own personal goals, it is not about meeting our own program expectations.
**At the Y, we respect everyone who comes to us to share their story – and many are working toward a fresh start in life. So while their stories and experiences are true, names and images have been changed or omitted to protect their privacy.**
About Family Support and Preservation Services
We are committed to strengthening families and preserving the family unit. Our Family Support and Preservation department includes services for kinship caregivers, children in foster care and families involved in the Child Welfare System. Learn more.