Written by: Penny Combs, Community Liaison
This is my 30th year working for People Places, Inc. And, in that time, I have never seen such a desire to engage youth and families in such a personal, powerful, and informative way. Decision makers at both the state and local levels are eager to hear the stories of foster/adoptive youth, former foster/ adoptive youth, and their families. There is a sincere desire to learn from these stories…and to put in place new ideas to encourage future success for youth and families.
This past year, I have been in meetings where decision makers, in suits, sat around a conference table and were visibly touched by stories told about what it was like to grow up in foster care…through the eyes of a young person. I have seen a group of professionals stand and applaud a mother who shared her experience getting the services needed for her struggling daughter. I was also thrilled to hear a high school student who stepped up to lead a group of other foster teens, when he presented the items they were most eager to see changed in the foster care system. I presented, along with many of my adult colleagues, to a legislative committee where each of us passionately encouraged change to benefit Virginia children.
The journeys of the youth and their parents stay with everyone who hears them. I am not so sure, that in my teenage years, I would have had the courage to tell my life’s story to such a group. Connection itself is very powerful, and when leaders are able to hear a person’s story…and actually connect, real change becomes possible.
Now is the time and the climate is ideal for taking the first step towards reform and improvement. There are many groups eager to have youth and families represent their points of view. There are groups of current and former foster/adoptive youth who get together to discuss common issues. Training and mentorships are available for those who have the courage to give their voices a try!
For example, Project Life has opportunities, year-round, to come together with other youth and has a conference happening (free to youth who apply) in just 4 weeks. https://www.vaprojectlife.org/for-young-adults/the-conference-2/?mc_cid=a7a84f21c1&mc_eid=bbe2230583
This is a call to action. YOU CAN DO IT! If you are in the Fostering Futures Program, your story will be important to continue that program for others. If you think you may be able to find the courage, I am happy to talk with you…give me a call at (540) 885-8841.