October is Foster Youth Voice Month, a national campaign led by Selfless Love Foundation to elevate the voices of youth with lived experience in the child welfare care system. This submission is a part of our collaborative series to raise awareness about issues that impact youth with lived experience and highlight their voices.
“When you find your voice, you don’t find some new thing inside of you. Instead, you find a little more of you.” – Dan Cumberland
Finding your voice initially seems scary because you worry about how people will react to what you have to say. But, when you speak your truth and advocate for what matters to you, you find peace. As a former foster care youth, I didn’t believe I had much to say, or that anyone cared about what I had to say. But during a home visit one day I found my voice.
I remember that day like it was yesterday. My foster parents, guardian ad litem, and I sat in a room talking about my school and my behaviors (the good and the bad). I remember thinking, “Wow, everyone has a lot to say about my life, and I’m sitting here quietly!” It wasn’t until they mentioned changing me to another school that I shot up and started voicing my concerns. There was a look of shock on their faces as I listed the reasons why my current school was the best choice for me. When the dust settled, I was allowed to stay at my school. This day was pivotal for my life because it taught me that people do care about what I have to say. I learned that I can make changes in my life by speaking up and reaching out.
Fast forward four years, I am a 21-year-old sophomore at the University of North Carolina Greensboro who is always advocating for myself. I used the skill of speaking up in SaySo (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out), an organization that helps youth advocate for other youth who are or have been in the substitute care system. Through SaySo I’ve had the opportunity to talk to policy makers, future social workers, and even current and previous foster youth to push for change and to show others that they too can find their voice. We are all stronger than we think. If no one fights for you, YOU can fight for you!