Who’s Eligible

Open to current and former foster youth, ages 18 and older.

Juvenile justice or youth incarceration experience is preferred but not required.

General Requirements

Your submission must include the following:

  • A title for your essay or poem. 
  • A short bio about you (100-300 words).
  • Your name, age and the state (and city or county) where you were in foster care and/or involved with juvenile justice & homelessness.
  • Your email address and phone number.
  • A photo of you to go with your essay or poem. 

*Submissions that fail to follow the prompt guidelines, meet the word count requirement or include requested material will be disqualified at the discretion of the judges.

Essay Guidelines

Please submit a 1,000 – 2,000 word essay on your experience related to one of the four prompts below.

Poetry Guidelines

Using one of the prompts below, write an emotional poem expressing your experiences dealing with the child welfare system, homelessness, or the juvenile justice system. You may submit your poem in a written or video format.


Choose one of the following:

  1. How did your foster care experience lead to your juvenile justice experiences? What do you want others to know about your juvenile justice experiences?
  2.  How did periods of homelessness lead to encounters with police or the criminal justice system? What policies could be changed to better support foster youth who are experiencing housing instability? 
  3. Who or what helped you get out of the juvenile system? Explore positive relationships. Did you have further experiences that highlight how closely connected the foster care and juvenile justice systems are to each other? 
  4. Explore the foster care to prison/juvenile detention system pipeline. Describe how the systems are interconnected. What ways can the system(s) change so that youth don’t bounce back and forth between systems?


Submit by 11:59 p.m. on January 23, 2023.


Winners will have the opportunity to have their essays published in The Imprint as well as our print magazine, Fostering Families Today.

Essay: The grand prize winner will receive $1,000, one runner-up will receive $500, and 3rd place will receive $300 and (2) finalists will each receive $200 and $100, respectively. 

Poetry: The grand prize winner will receive $500, one runner-up will receive $350, and 3rd place will receive $250.

Winners will be announced during National Foster Care Month in May 2023.


By submitting your essay, you grant Fostering Media Connections permission to publish your work as it chooses, indefinitely. All submissions will be blinded, meaning judges will not have any identifying information about the author. Winners will be asked to submit a short bio and headshot and to work with our editors to prepare their photos for publication.

How to Submit

Submit your essay here: 2023 Youth Voice Writing Contest Submission Form

Submit your poetry here: 2023 Youth Voice Poetry Contest Submission Form


Email us at [email protected] or call us at (213) 379-5359 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. PST, Monday through Friday.