I was in foster care from the time I was 16 up until a month before my 21st birthday. Now I am 28 and a new mom sheltering at home to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
My name is Dominique Mallard. I am a core organizer in Colorado for an organization called Project Foster Power, which is under the Children’s Law Center. What we do is organize youth, and as a core organizer, I go throughout the Denver metro area and speak to youth who are in care or previously were in care to get their voices on what they feel that Colorado can do better to support children in the welfare system.
Every year, we do what we call listening tours. Last year we spoke to over 200 youth and they wanted us to work on sibling connections. We took their voices, their essays and drawings to our state legislators, and we passed a bill to keep siblings connected in foster care, which is a huge accomplishment.
This year the youth wanted to have better preparation for emancipation. We were to go to our youth and ask them what kind of preparation they would like to see happen and then take it to our legislators, caseworkers and others. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our work is on hold and I’m heartbroken.
There are so many kids who look up to us and vent to us, and now we can’t help them because of this pandemic. It’s hard for me to sit at home and know that there is a youth out there who needs my assistance and there’s nothing I can do about it. 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 we’re unavailable, and then they go downhill.
Then to top it, I’m a new mother and I’m struggling with my finances. It’s hard for me to find my infant some formula or wipes because everyone is acting ridiculous and going overboard. Even worse, is I have in-home health care for my baby, and now they are saying that they are going to do video calls and tell me what to do for her treatment.
I don’t know. I miss my teammates. I miss organization for youth. It’s something that keeps me going. It’s something that gave me hope when I had lost it. We could have had something in place by summer, and now, with everyone losing jobs and stuff – will we ever be the same? Will people still donate to us so we can continue our organization? I find it hard to sleep at night because I’m not there for those who need me.
Dominique Mallard and her little brother entered foster care in 2008. She was in foster care from age 16 until emancipating into her own apartment at age 21. During that time, she lived in about 22 group homes, foster homes and residential treatment facilities. Her brother was adopted in 2009. Losing her brother caused grief and pain for Mallard, who struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. With a group of other former foster youth, Mallard formed Project Foster Power to raise the voices of youth in care to make change in the Colorado child welfare system. Last year, Mallard told state lawmakers her story, turning her pain into power. The legislators voted unanimously to keep siblings involved in each other’s lives. Now, Mallard is a new mom and youth motivational speaker.