A Holiday Recipe for Successful Transitional Foster Youth

Over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a number of former foster youth. At some point during the interview, the question of love, or “why not love,” comes up. As in: “I don’t understand why my [fill in blank] didn’t love me.”

But, when I asked several people who went through the system what they thought was an essential ingredient for a former foster youth, none said love.

How does a child taken from their home for any number of reasons and put into a situation with a relative or stranger – how do they navigate their childhood to find love? How do they know that love even exists? And finally, how on Earth can that not be top of their “what they need to be successful” list?

Perhaps it is on the top of their list, but like wishing upon a star, or a birthday candle, perhaps finding, getting love just seems to be too much of a long-shot.

When asked, both Georgette Todd and Jasmine Torres recommended stability as a must-add ingredient. Jasmine goes on to say that “in a system that will change your social worker, change your group home or foster home, where foster siblings or group home roommates switch every month – you need something that is stable and healthy that can serve as a constant.”

Georgette adds: “Just one person can really make a difference in giving you a sense of normalcy.”

Who are these stability-providing people and how have they gone to the top of the list? Whether it is a social worker, a CASA, a mentor, a teacher, a lawyer, a therapist – those too can change, but what about the ones that are staying? The ones that seem to stick and as Georgette suggests, become your “go-to people.”

Do you think that love in some form lurks within the definition of “stability?” I do.

The following proportions are for the production of a fine, well-balanced youth transitioning out of the foster care system, ready to begin running their own life:

  1. Three heaping tablespoons of self-worth
  2. One friend, minimally
  3. One transitional living situation
  4. One college support team (note: this can be substituted for a career support team)
  5. One organization designed for transitional youth
  6. Sprinkle liberally with stability
  7. Check assumptions, add relevant legislation, mix together and season with love
  8. Add patience, forgiveness, and a touch of humility, as necessary, to set the recipe.
  9. Ask for help if you are having difficulty during mixing. Repeat, as necessary. Note that the first time you try this, it might not come out perfectly and you may have to revisit some of the portions. It does improve every time you make it.
  10. Serve warm. This recipe should be considered successful when you can think of a handful of people who really care about what happens to you in your life.

Mira Zimet is an award-winning educational and documentary filmmaker. She has been producing videos for over fifteen years. Recently, she launched The Storyboard Project to give foster youth transitioning into adulthood the opportunity to tell their story using a visual medium.

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