Stories of Youth in Care
Why can’t we be like other kids who go to college because their families figured out how to pay for it? The State of Alabama is my Mom and Dad – why won’t they pay for it?” That’s what one DREAM Council member asked. In 2015, DREAM Council advocacy resulted in passage of legislation that created the Fostering Hope scholarship fund that pays in-state 2/4 year college tuition for qualified Alabama youth in foster care.
~DREAM Council member, active in the process of successful advocacy for Fostering Hope Scholarship Act
I spend a lot of time with IL Youth reviewing the ISP (Individual Service Plan) process. They need to understand that this is their plan and they have the right to participate – they have the right to request a meeting, may invite their own participants and make changes to their life plan when it’s written by a caseworker. Speaking up, respectfully, is critical in moving toward independence. One 18-year-old IL Youth recently did just that. Using skills he learned at DREAM Council Meetings, he worked “with the system” to ensure that he and his siblings will stay together, whether in a group home or through adoption. He is a talented athlete and made sure that he’ll be supported to continue that activity. He is teaching his siblings to self-advocate. These are IL skills in action!
~CAS IL Youth Outreach Specialist
In the early years of IL programs, youth in foster care were not included in decision-making processes and therefore really didn’t buy into the program. They weren’t invested. Expanding the roles of DREAM Council and DREAM Ambassadors – speaking for themselves and their peers, sharing the good and the bad about foster care – has brought the program so far forward! Giving youth significant ownership of the program has greatly improved individual and group success.
~CAS IL Program Director
I was in foster care for 18 years without the benefit of an IL program. I guess I beat the odds – finished college, joined the military. Now I work for IL and tell our youth, “Don’t Let Your Past Determine Your Future.” Having an advocate makes a difference, but being an advocate makes even more. I have consistent, regular contact with IL Youth. They depend on me, but I make sure they know how to depend on themselves and each other, too. I feel like their big sister, and it feels great! IL allows me to help youth navigate through foster care and, even more important, after they leave foster care.
~CAS IL Youth Consultant
I spent 12 years in the foster care system... Most painful of all, I was separated from my younger brother….Our experiences in foster care could not have been more different. The first few years, I moved around a lot and led a lonely, unstable life. Then I was placed in a group home, where I found stability with the help of my social worker, who is now my mentor and father figure. My brother also moved from placement to placement, but he was not connected with supportive adults who could provide the kind of mentorship I relied on. I was encouraged to graduate from high school and go on to college. I am now working on a Bachelor's degree...My brother aged out of foster care at age 18 without either a high school diploma or a GED. I have my own apartment. Without guidance, my brother became homeless. With a criminal record and no education, it is now almost impossible for my brother to get a decent job. (fosterclub.com)