YouthSpeak: What Permanency Means to Us

imageby Jennifer Martinez, FosterClub California Youth Ambassador Consultant

Permanency, it’s an odd word to many foster youth. It’s not something that you experience as you are bounced from home to home. What happens after we leave the system? I know that for me, it still involved moving from place to place because that’s what felt normal to me. Before I left care, I made sure that I created a permanent relationship with someone. My last foster mom and family have become my permanent base. No matter where I am and no matter the time, I can still call my mom and talk to her. After I share a problem I am facing, she reaches out to make sure that I am in a better state of mind once I leave her house or get off the phone. Considering that I don’t have that relationship with my biological mom, it became very important for me to build this relationship with my foster mom. I’ve continued to build our relationship; it has lasted more than 8 years. I gained 2 brothers, 2 sisters, a father, and 2 babies that I adore more than anything. It’s the one place that I can call home. A place where I know I am always welcome. I’ll never have to worry about being alone or outcast.

As youth, we need that place that we can call home. Having a base that you can call home and where you can feel safe is especially important to foster youth and former foster youth. Sometimes in this world, we get so caught up in the craziness of life that we need someone to reach out with a steadying hand out to keep us from falling. It can simply be someone who will call us out when we are acting like children at 25. When people care about us, they will be honest in providing feedback and often, provide a listening ear. Someone who cares about you will also just check in to see if you are ok.

What I would like to have adults realize is that they aren’t done with youth once they turn 18. Granted, you don’t have to support us financially. But please be there for us. How can you be there for us? Be a friend. Be there to support us when we need to cry it out or when we need to talk it out. If we ask, provide your perspective and advice. It could be as simple as making a phone call or sending a small care package; just reaching out to offer support and connection.

Honestly, there is never going to be a law that can change this. It needs to start with each and every single one of us. As adults, we need to find that one child or young person who we can connect with and offer our support. As foster youth, we need to not give up on the system. We need to search for that person that we connect with and who offers that permanency. When we do this, lives are changed. Sometimes a life is saved.

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Jennifer is pursuing higher education in a 4-year university, seeking a career in politics. In addition to receiving national recognition as a FosterClub Outstanding Young Leader, Jennifer has been active with her local chapter of the California Youth Connection. Jennifer considers her area of specialty, as it relates to foster care, to be public speaking. More specifically, after spending a year and a half in care in Los Angeles County, Jennifer enjoys advocating for youth in care by conveying information and promoting the young person’s self-confidence, all things that have helped her pursue higher education. Her reason for advocating for foster youth is because she was blessed to have a wonderful family that gave her a wonderful life. She believes that every youth from the foster care system should be able to have been as happy as she was. Jennifer believes that youth should always speak up for themselves and that there is nothing more powerful or important than a youth who is willing and able to stand up, making a difference and inspiring change in their lives.