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Bette’s Story

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Social Justice for Forster Care Youth

I’m twenty-eight and a grad student in clinical psychology at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, California.

I entered foster care at age eleven. I was on my own until my brother came back into my life twelve years later when I was 23.  For the first time in my life, I had someone telling me that I was smart and capable and that I should go to school.  With his encouragement and him by my side, I applied. I realized how much I needed and wanted something more.  In the last five years, I’ve transformed my life but it hasn’t been easy and definitely didn’t happen overnight.

I spent years feeling lost and insecure about my own intelligence.  I questioned whether I had anything of value to offer the world. I didn’t grow up with a family to nurture and encourage. When I first got to college, I hung out with the “party crowd” as a way to escape my feelings of insecurity.

I was caught drinking. I was written up for bad behavior and not allowed to live on campus. I spent three months struggling to pay rent and dealing with the consequences of my actions.

This was a turning point for me.  I worked hard to repair my reputation and became involved with student life, and eventually a campus leader.  With support from my mentor, Jim,  I found a passion for social justice. Jim helped me see that I had the power to make a difference. Is care, made a difference in my life.

My school, Notre Dame De Namur, didn’t offer any support for students from foster care. I knew there were others on campus like me. I worked with our school’s leadership to develop a new program.  One of my proudest moments was giving a presentation about the needs of youth transitioning out of foster care.  My mentor shared some heartfelt words as he introduced me, FC2S staff attended, my brother was there as well as many friends and instructors.  I will never forget that amazing evening and the knowledge that sharing my story helped to create a better system of support for other foster youth on my campus.

Some would say that there’s a lot of support for foster youth if you know how to find it – things like year-round housing, stipends for food or transportation, or help with getting a laptop for school.  But real support goes beyond financial assistance. People would give me “stuff” and then walk away.  Honestly, it made things worse. We need caring adults who will take the time to show us how to navigate our resources and tell us why it’s important.  If we really want to see better outcomes and positive change, we need people to treat us with respect and kindness and to offer consistent support instead of temporary guidance.

I have created my own unique, wonderful and loving family.  I’ve spent the last five years working hard to connect with positive and compassionate people who inspire and encourage me every day.  As a member of FosterU, I’d like to help other youth avoid some of the mistakes that I have made.  I’m also excited for the chance to help others who may be experiencing the same doubts, fears, and questions that I had when I started this journey.

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