Treat Foster Children as You Would Your Own Children

As advocates for children in foster care, there is no greater reward than to hear the youth themselves describe how their determination and courage helped them overcome the adversities that plagued them as children, and threatened their ability to succeed as young adults.

National CASA Deputy CEO M. Carmela Welte participated in recent congressional briefings presented by the 2012 class of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) foster youth interns as part of her public policy advocacy work for National CASA. She shares her thoughts below.

Treat Foster Children as You Would Your Own Children

In July, 13 former foster youth conducted a congressional briefing at the US Capitol. The youth shared stories of their challenges while in care and offered policy recommendations to improve outcomes for all youth in care. Sometimes practical, other times visionary, their recommendations brought the authentic voice of youth experiences to the threshold of Congress.

The youth’s ideas cover a broad range of child welfare issues. The following are just a few examples:

  • Post-secondary education financing: Maurissa Sorensen, a graduate of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, interned for Sen. John Kerry. She explained that it took her 10 years to complete her higher education. She worked her way through school and did not receive any federal financial aid or information about the assistance that does exist for foster youth, such as Chafee Education Training Vouchers ($5,000/year). Maurissa proposed a number of sensible reforms to ensure that foster youth have greater access to higher education and are informed about the financial assistance that is available to them.
  • Access to information and resources: Marchelle Roberts, a broadcast journalism student at Temple University, interned with Sen. Mary Landrieu. Marchelle had a CASA volunteer until she was adopted. She described the importance of having a support system to guide youth or connect them with resources that can be helpful after they leave foster care. Marchelle envisions a Foster Youth Information Gateway to connect foster youth to the array of services and support available both locally and nationally, as well as to help youth locate mentors and connect with family members.
  • Crossover from foster care to criminal justice system: Harold “R.J.” Sloke is among the thousands of former foster youth who upon learning about the work of CASA advocates, recognize such support could have made a significant difference in his own life in care. He knows that a CASA volunteer would have challenged his inappropriate placement as a foster youth into maximum security group homes—where rooms are magnetically locked, toilet paper is handed out by sheets and school attendance is meted out as a privilege. R.J. credits the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps for helping him to surmount the persecutions he suffered and go on to succeed. Among his many recommendations to Congress and to advocates is to encourage foster youth to enroll in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program as an alternative to congregate care. T.J. expects to be sworn in as a CASA volunteer in October. He interned for Sen. Roy Blunt.

What a privilege to hear from these young leaders. They bring fresh, innovative ideas to the sometimes pedantic world of “public policy.” I encourage you to review their many innovative ideas in Hear Me Now. Throughout their reports, the significance of mentors, advocates and adult connections in their lives is abundantly clear.

A final recommendation—to Congress, and to all of us—comes from CCAI intern and former CASA youth Dashun Jackson: “Treat foster children as you would your own children.”

Join our network and learn more about the issues facing youth in foster care and what you can do to help.

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5 Responses to Treat Foster Children as You Would Your Own Children

  1. Barbara Scott says:

    I am a CASA in Washington State. One of my foster children is 16 and is interested in attending college.

    Where can I go to read about opportunities/financial resources for higher education for foster children?

    Thank you,
    Barb ara

  2. Laurie Marie Higgins says:

    I do not earn enough wages to be able to financially donate. I have raised to successful sons and now have plenty of heart and time to share with a child in need of my help.

    Sincerely,
    Laurie M. Higgins

    • Carmela Welte says:

      Hello, Laurie,
      Thank you so much for your inquiry. Your time, your heart, and your tenacity can be a lifeline for a child in foster care. Please send us your city and state, and we can refer you to a CASA program in your community. Email staff@nationalcasa.org Foster children need adults to advocate for their rights, and safe- keeping. Thank you.

  3. Laurie Klein says:

    When I heard about the CASA program, I got chills. Tears streamed down my face as I was overwhelmed with emotion.
    My siblings and I endured horrible abuse together and separately in more than one foster home. Never, not once did anyone reach out to us. When we cried out for help, we were silenced.
    Society has paid a price for the abuse my brothers had to suffer. With 3 out of 4 of them spending many years in prison as adults.
    I will do anything and everything in my power to promote the CASA program. I thought about becoming an advocate, but it’s just too close to my heart for me and I’m afraid I would not be objective or effective.
    I did write a book “To Whom It May Concern: a memoir of a foster child”. Our small local paper did a front page story on it so that I could bring awareness to the need of the CASA program in our county.
    A woman who is running for Probate Judge in our County, read the book and was very moved and in her words “enlightened and surprised”. I am crossing my fingers that she is elected as she is very exciting about welcoming CASA’s into her court.
    What can I do besides money, which I will be donating on a local level as the program starts up?
    From one grown up ex-foster child to you……….Thank you!!!

    • Carmela Welte says:

      Hello, Laurie, How wonderful that you are reaching out to help our children in foster care. I do hope that you and the judge are successful in starting a program in your community. There is probably a CASA state director in your state, that can be a resource to your efforts. You can email staff@nationalcasa.org, to request contact information. Please let us know how we can be helpful as well. Thank you.

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