This year, the Youth Voices Rising team at Fostering Media Connections was proud to work with dozens of current and former foster youth with child welfare, homelessness and juvenile justice experience to share their stories in writing and at online events.
As 2023 comes to an end, here is a collection of some of our top Youth Voices Rising pieces from the year.
We are all People of the Harvest
by Lino Peña-Martinez
Wherever foster youth come from, Peña-Martinez writes in this powerful message to fellow foster youth, our collective stories matter. “Our time, efforts, and energy are precious, and we must continue to reap what we sow. So let’s continue to build this movement and create systems that reflect the diversity and complexity of our people.”
CPS Enforces Surveillance Rather Than Well-Being
by Joel Swazo
Swazo’s stepdad should have been able to care for him and his sisters, but the system put up barriers instead of helping to make that happen, he writes. He believes the system relies too much on surveilling families and makes it too difficult to reunite after foster care.
It is Time to Prioritize Young People’s Mental Health
by Amal Kharoufi
With hundreds of millions of dollars headed out to states to address the mental health of youth, Kharoufi writes that young people should be at the table to decide how best to spend it.
Later, Kharoufi joined Fostering Media Connections for “Mental Health at the Crossroads,” a conversation about how the lack of community mental health options in New York impacted the state’s foster care and juvenile justice systems.
Buxton discusses how her family’s nomadic lifestyle could be traced in part to her own mother’s experience with foster care and homelessness. By addressing root causes, she writes “we can dismantle the barriers perpetuating homelessness among youth exiting foster care.”
Aging out of foster care is hard for any young person, Barcus writes. But the added challenge of having a disability can make it even more difficult to make the transition into adulthood.
“We need to make sure that these disability rights movements include the additional barriers that foster youth with disabilities face,” said Barcus.
Pursuing Peace Instead of Packing Prisons
by Jessica Castillo
Castillo argues that when youth commit crimes, they “are still experiencing this section of their lives, which is a time for learning, nurture, and guidance. It’s not a time to be taught that you’re a lost cause and tossed in a detention center.”
She follows with a list of examples of strategies to engage youth in accountability and support without locking them up.
Children Need Community Centers, Not Detention Centers
by Thalia Bernal
Like Castillo, Bernal stresses that “there are many things we should try before a youth ever has to be locked up in a detention center.” A better strategy, she argues, is providing opportunities for play and the chance to reclaim childhood.
Children Should Not be Incarcerated
by Spring Keosoupha
Keosoupha provides perspective on the toll incarceration can take on a young person’s asset development. Her interest in art, her education, and her relationship with family members were all damaged by the experience, she writes.
Standing on the Shoulders of Many Mothers
by Jasmine Mora
In a powerful piece published on the week of Mother’s Day, Jasmine Mora reflected on the complicated relationship she had with her own mom after entering the foster care system, and the adults who helped her develop a positive view of love and trust.
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