Surviving the Coronavirus Crisis

Current & Former Foster Youth Speak Out

When Youth Voice Program Manager Raquel Wilson put out a call to current and former foster youth to tell us their stories of how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted their education or career paths, we were hopeful a few essays would trickle in. Instead, dozens of young people from California to Texas to Illinois and New Jersey have shared with us their fears and struggles, as well as their optimism in the face of the terrifying unknown. 

The devastating outbreak, and the upheaval it has caused, is resulting in emotions that are not unfamiliar for young people who have spent time in foster care. They know about abrupt life changes, being uprooted, scarcity, feeling like there is nothing certain in the world around them. 

But because of that lived experience, they are also expert navigators. They look for the way forward, any way. They know they’ll make it through because they’ve done that before. In this way, we hope our readers will appreciate these essays – written from quarantined dorm rooms and unemployment lines – for the wisdom, optimism and clear vision they provide us all.

To other current and former foster youth out there: we want to hear from you too! Contact our Youth Voice Director, Raquel Wilson, at

Candace Ortiz: Single Mother Struggling to Get By With Two Sons

“This virus is so negative, and I hope this is over soon so I can obtain my degree and seek out jobs to work for my family to get their needs met.”

Justin Hayden: I Have to Do My Homework on My Phone

“You go to college, have study sessions with some friends in your favorite spots on campus, find an amazing internship that gives you a head start in your career. I had all of this until the effects of COVID-19 brought all of that to a halt.”

Faith Sharp: I Don’t Know When I’ll Be Ready to Completely Unpack Again

“Everyone I have reached out to and expressed my instability in life has had one of two reactions. One: They try and help. Two: They tell me about other people who have it worse.”

Kimberly Martinez: Barricaded But Hopeful in Quarantine

“My straight A’s that I had been maintaining are starting to look a bit unrealistic during this crazy stressful time and the online structure we are now working with.”

Trystan Gangi: Old Fears and Dreads Return with a Vengeance

“We get sick easier, it affects us more, and it takes us longer to recover. Just by going out and looking for a job, youth in similar situations could be putting their very lives at risk.”

A.L.: The Weight of Being a Former Foster Youth in the Age of COVID-19

“The system put into place to protect us continues to fail – and forget – us.”

Savannah Scott: Getting Tossed Up in the Air by Pandemic

“I’m struggling with adjusting to online classes, because it’s so hard to focus on a computer while I have so many things to worry about – will I not be able to pay some of my bills?”

Gichera Loman: What Foster Youth Need Right Now

…”For kids in this situation what we can do is provide them a hotline or somebody they can talk to.”

Annie Marek-Barta: Love on the Frontlines of Foster Care

“I’ve been overcome with emotion as these constrictions have brought up many feelings of my past as a foster child: the constant change, the rules, the unknown and the limit of being near the ones I love.”

These youth shared their stories in mid-April about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting their higher education goals and careers.

Jammy Harris: High School Disruption Hurts My Heart

“School is where I’m able to focus and actually thrive with my peers helping and encouraging me. The coronavirus has minimized my ability to be successful in the classroom.”

Ryan Parry: This Will Change the Course of America Forever

“Living independently, I have been a one-man operation since I reached self-sufficiency. Now I’m in the unfortunate position of relying on aid from others for those basic necessities.”

Tawanna Brown: Opportunities to Re-Create My Narrative

“My guidance counselor always tells me that family is not defined by blood, family is what you make it. I chose to create a family for myself and that was school. Having a place to escape to, a place where I feel seen and most importantly heard is my school.”

Aliyah Zeien: We Haven’t Been This Afraid Since Hurricane Katrina

I am the sole and full caretaker of my sister, who has lived with me for the past two years. I hope and pray that I don’t have COVID-19 or pass it on to her as she has asthma and has needed breathing treatments since age 3.

Michael Fulcher: Diabetes Adds Risk in Coronavirus Age

“We get sick easier, it affects us more, and it takes us longer to recover. Just by going out and looking for a job, youth in similar situations could be putting their very lives at risk.”

Tye Rae Bailey: Quarantine Taught Me to Appreciate Relationships

“First off, it is extremely weird to have to work from home. I find it more difficult to get motivated to wake up and say to myself, ‘Well, it’s time to get to work.”” 

Nileh Irsan: Grad School Out the Window for Now

“I had about a month to prepare my application, three letters of recommendation, my letter of intent, submitting all of my transcripts, and taking and submitting a GRE exam.”

Dominique Mallard: Youth Need Me, And I’m Not Available

“I’m worried that there’s someone out there who needs our resources and help finding shelter or a job or wanting to know how to fill out a form, and were unavailable, and then they go downhill.”

Sabrina Magro: Coronavirus Has Made Me feel Like a Scared Helpless Child Again

“I would see my friends heading home where they had parents and a family who loved them. I would go home to my little room and my dog.” 

Chaida Bango Bango: Today, I am a Foster Youth. Tomorrow, I am Leading Change

“From classes being canceled and starting spring break earlier than planned, everything I knew then was floating above me in the air. I felt unstable and unbalanced.”

These youth shared their stories in early April about how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting their higher education goals and careers. Their unique stories launched this series.

Michelle Walls: Our Lecture in Real Time

“As a foster youth with limited support, I knew that I had been playing with fire, but it was all worth my dream of one day becoming a physician.”

Jennifer Martinez: If I Survived Then, Surely I Can Do It Now

“Being a former foster youth, there is one thing that you learn and that is to find your strength and fight to make yourself and the world better.”

Brandon Brown: Impact I Want to Be a Part Of

“In hopes that the pandemic will come to a close eventually, I have begun obtaining the resources necessary to continue on the path of college graduation.”

Hannah Royal: Coronavirus has Completely Turned My Life Upside Down

“Toward the end of winter term, I had heard about something that caused growing concern throughout the world, though I had no idea just how big of an impact it would have on me.”

Ivory Bennett: Showing Up as a Teacher and a Student

“By the end of this year I will be a professor, a principal, and have earned a master’s degree in education administration … or, will I?”

Fabian Tolan: Resources I Relied on Have Come to a Halt

“This pandemic made me realize that I have never been on an equal playing field as my peers. I don’t want to keep living off the snacks from the Next Up office at Bakersfield College.”

Lauren Werner: Accepting My Character

“I had subconsciously been planning to distract myself from the negative parts of my life, and found out it was more difficult than ever to distract myself from them.”

Jarvell Williams: The Promise of a Future

“The opportunities I’ve had to make others’ lives better is something I will never take for granted. With situations like the COVID-19 outbreak making it very difficult to think optimistically, I know that this too shall pass.”

DJ Ditto: Looking Forward to a Hug and a High-Five

“Sure, we have technology where we can communicate or see our friends and loved ones, but it is not comparable to life with in-person interactions.”

Victoria Kavanagh: Praying This Brings Us Closer Together

“If I’ve learned anything from this pandemic, it’s that we need to truly appreciate all that we have, because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed – especially not now.”