Imagine having your name chosen by your caseworker by the spinning of her contact Rolodex. At the Shoulder to Shoulder conference, I heard the powerful message that we are all connected. I listened to Angela Tucker, this year's keynote speaker share the story of how she got her name.
As a foster alumni, I have always felt very connected to anyone who has experienced care.
I am highly motivated and have picked my career in working for non-profit called FosterClub. I may not know your name, or how you got it, or how it was chosen, but I feel connected to you if you have experienced care. We are a family and a village.
Because I care, I jumped at the opportunity to sit on the Shoulder to Shoulder committee to bring foster youth perspective to the conference.
Shoulder to Shoulder is a multi-disciplinary conference providing professional training and building stronger partnerships on behalf of children in the child welfare system. My job title at FosterClub is the Oregon Connect Coordinator. Ashley Foster, the Training and Education Manager, also represented FosterClub by assisting with the conference planning and attending the Conference.
Ashley and I ran a booth for FosterClub at this year's conference, along with over 30 other vendors. Each vendor came to help further educate, connect and inspire the conference attendees. Those amazing people attending ranged from foster parents, adoptive parents, CASA's, social workers, probation officers, doctors, and other child welfare professionals working to support children and families across Oregon.
I shared information about the Oregon Connect project which allows FosterClub to collect surveys for the National Youth In Transition Database (NYTD) in partnership with Oregon DHS. Surveys are collected from Oregon foster youth ages 17,19 and 21. Surveys give foster youth a chance to voice their opinion and improve the child welfare systems.
As the Dedicated Oregon Connect Outreach Coordinator, I have the added privilege of not only surveying youth but being able to get to know them. I love connecting by phone, email or text and getting to know my foster care family. I get to provide them with extra information, resources and anything they need.
For example, the youth I have previously surveyed have called me back for help with health care, housing, social security benefits and college. I love these calls! They allow me to connect and serve former foster youth like me.
At FosterClub, we are here for you.
Ashley and Ashlee have participated in the Shoulder to Shoulder committee for the last 4 years, working to help incorporate youth perspective into Oregon’s largest annual professional training conference. FosterClub works with many partners to ensure conferences and training events are including foster youth perspective and practicing authentic youth engagement. Ask us how to get a FosterClub young leader or staff member involved in your upcoming training and event planning!