Former foster youth received awards for inspirational advocacy on federal foster care reform that would help more of the 500,000 children in foster care have safe, permanent families
WHAT: Eleven young adults who grew up in foster care were honored as Outstanding Young Leaders of 2008 by FosterClub, a national network for youth in foster care, and Kids Are Waiting, a national, nonpartisan project of The Pew Charitable Trusts. These foster care alumni were recognized for their outstanding leadership and dedication in advocating for improvements to the U.S. foster care system. The event was hosted by the National Association of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) as part of their Forgotten Children exhibit, May 19-23, at the Washington Monument. Each day, 850 life-sized cutouts of children were placed on the Mall, representing the 850 children who enter foster care every day in the United States.
The young people honored at this event have courageously shared their experiences at Congressional hearings and other events throughout the nation, urging federal reforms that would reduce the number of children languishing in foster care – currently more than 500,000 - and ensure that more foster children have the safety and permanence of a family.
PHOTO OP: Visual backdrop of more than 2,500 life-sized cut-outs representing foster children currently in the system waiting for safe, permanent families, organized by CASA. Foster care alumni from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, and Tennessee at the Washington Monument (Bios below).
WHO: Invited Speakers include: Representative Jim McDermott, Washington Representative Patrick J. Tiberi, Ohio Representative Dennis Cardoza, California
WHEN: Wednesday, May 21, 2008 11 AM – 1 PM. 11.30 awards ceremony begins
WHERE: CASA Forgotten Children Exhibit at the Washington Monument, near crescent
OUTSTANDING YOUNG LEADERS BIOGRAPHIES
Josh Conner, Nashville, Tennessee: Was recently adopted at the age of 22 by his mentor. Josh entered care at the age of 15 when it was apparent that his family could no longer care for him. Currently, he serves on the Tennessee Youth Advisory Council and often works with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. He has spoken at several policy forums including a Congressional briefing last summer.
JJ Hitch, Rochester Hills, Michigan: Has spoken at several Congressional briefings and rallies for foster care reform. He had a kinship placement with his three younger siblings who were all adopted by his grandparents. JJ went through many trials and tribulations including fighting addictions. Currently, he works for the Department of Human Services and interned in the United States Senate last summer.
Schylar Canfield, Butte, Montana: Entered foster care at the age of six after being removed from his sexually, physically, and verbally abusive biological family. After 13 placements during his 11 years in the foster care system, he aged out of the system. He has graduated from Montana Tech, University of Montana with a degree in Professional and Technical Communications. Schylar is a member of the National Foster Youth Advisory Council and the Secretary for the Montana CASA State Board.
Lupe Tovar, Tucson, Arizona: Has testified before the United States House of Representative Ways and Means subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support. Lupe spent 19 years in foster care. During this time, she experienced many disruptions such as sibling separation, and educational, cultural identity and emotional barriers. Today, she is the Program Coordinator for In My Shoes, a non-profit peer-mentoring agency.
Nicole Dobbins, Portland, Oregon: Has been in and out of the foster care system since the age of two; taken away initially due to her mother’s drug addiction and inability to care for her and her younger sister. She is a graduate of Oregon State University and currently serves as Program Coordinator with FosterClub. She is passionate about advocating for foster youth needs and has shared her story in Congress and participated in more than 25 trainings in Oregon for judges and caseworkers on the importance of permanency.
Sharde Armstrong, Upland, Indiana: Entered the foster care system at the age of six with five other siblings. She spent 12 years transitioning between the foster care system and her parents until finally aging out of the system at 18 after graduating. She went on to college and graduated from Taylor University with a major in Psychology/Pre-law. She worked in the United States Senate through the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institutes (CCAI) Foster Youth Internship program.
Daryle Conquering-Bear, Aurora, Colorado: Entered foster care at the age of 13 and was placed in two group homes and two foster homes. An American Indian, and part of the Ogala Lakota Sioux tribe, he strongly believes that he missed out on his cultural identity when placed in foster care. Currently attending Metropolitan State College of Denver and pursuing a degree in Sports Industry Operations and Native American Studies, he continues to advocate for system reform.
Aaron Weaver, Lincoln, Nebraska: At birth, Aaron entered the foster care system, where he experienced injustices of all types. At the age of six, he was adopted by a loving family. Through love and patience of his family he was able to overcome the challenges his past traumas presented. Aaron hopes to become a full time writer and get his masters degree in public administration.
Tyler Bacon, Jacksonville, Florida: Tyler Bacon, twenty-three years old, is a national public speaker/advocate for foster youth. He has spoken in front of the Congressional Ways and Means subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support and spoken with several different legislators in an effort to change the foster care system. He currently works with Educate Tomorrow in Miami to advocate for change for youth in the Florida foster care system. Tyler is very passionate about peer- to-peer mentoring and proper support for youth transitioning from the system. He is also employed by Blockbuster as a manager in Jacksonville, Florida.
Daniel Knapp,, Elmira, New York: Recently graduated from the University at Buffalo. Dan was 9 years old when placed into the system and was adopted at the age of 14 by his first and only foster mother. He is thankful to his family for their lifelong guidance. He was featured in Time Magazine and continues to be a voice for youth in foster care. He is currently attending graduate school and plans to obtain a Master’s in Education.
Julia Charles, Greensboro, North Carolina: Spent 11 years in foster care in a dozen homes. Julia is one of seven children and lost contact with her siblings. Julia is an author and recently completed her book, Surviving the Storm. Her dream of a family was realized when she was adopted in December 2005 at the age of 23. Julia is a recent college graduate who is looking to pursue a masters degree in the near future.