Today is the last day of May, which means that it is also the last day of National Foster Care Awareness Month. Whenever we try to raise awareness for any cause or issue, it’s important that people know not only what it is, but why it’s important and how they are a part or could be a part of it. National Foster Care Awareness Month isn’t any more important than awareness for any other social or medical issues, but this month is the one that is most personal to to me and that I’m the most qualified to talk about.
Being a former foster youth means that I have countless unofficial brothers and sisters that have had experiences similar to mine. It also means that I, and all of these other former and current foster youth, face some pretty daunting statistics. Statistically, we are less likely to finish high school, and those that do are are drastically less likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Foster youth are more likely to experience homelessness, suffer from substance abuse problems, live in poverty, and become incarcerated. I have thankfully avoided becoming a statistic, recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree, and will be continuing on to graduate school in the fall.
My avoidance of the harsh situations that befall many foster youth does not make me special. I’m not particularly resilient, more intelligent, or more worthy of a happy, successful life than any of my peers. So what has made a difference for me? I have been blessed with people in my life that care, and that continue to care about me as I transition into adulthood. Not just the legal adulthood that I reached at the age of 18, but into the stages that mark passage into “real life”.
I have amazing foster parents that I began living with when I was 16 and stayed with until I left for college at 18. However, they have continued to be my family, through holidays and summer breaks, ups and downs, and continue to be supportive of me as I look to my future. I also had an Independent Living Coordinator who not only made sure that I would be capable of continuing on to college, working, and living on my own, but who also made sure that I would strive to achieve everything I dreamed of. At age 21 and after my junior year of college, I was officially done with the Independent Living Program, but that didn’t stop my Independent Living Coordinator from giving me a call this week to congratulate me on my graduation and to remind me how proud everyone was.
This is what foster care awareness should really mean. It’s not just knowing what it is, it’s knowing what really matters and what can really change the lives and outcomes of thousands of youth. Foster youth don’t need someone to care when they’re removed from their families, while they’re in foster care, or for just a few days, weeks, or years. They don’t need people to care during Foster Care Awareness Month. They need people that will care and support them when they’re 16 and in high school, 20 and in college, 25 and working, and for forever after that.
Happy National Foster Care Awareness Month, everyone!