If there is one thing we know about the Covid19 pandemic it’s the phrase, “stay home”. Which is doable unless you no longer have a home. I’m a former foster youth who was making it ok, until the pandemic hit. I was in college, and school was my home. Now, I find myself adrift, again.
As a former foster youth who was kicked out of care at age 18, transitioning to adulthood alone is not easy in the best of times. Making it to college is an achievement in itself. Former foster youth often don’t have the safety net of a stable family to call on during this critical time of transition. Add in the current health crisis, and life is even more uncertain.
Right now I’m at College of Southern Nevada (CSN) trying to finish my prerequisites so I’m able to get in my program of choice, which is general vascular sonography. This will help me achieve my goal of becoming an Ultrasound Tech.
Currently, I do work at McDonalds and I’m thankful for the hours I get. I’m also thankful for my boyfriend’s family who has welcomed me in, but I miss my siblings and my mom.
In this time of concern over the health crisis, staying home can be the easiest way to “flatten the curve” however, the isolation is mounting for me. Since campus is closed I can’t study at a library table or talk to my professor in person, which makes it difficult for my learning and for my college success. Being at school surrounded by other students motivated me. It was a supportive and relaxing environment. Now my college campus is a world away from my reality of studying alone.
Despite all of this, I know I’m better off than some of my peers and, I worry about other young people who have exited foster care without stable families. I deeply understand their fears, their real concerns of isolation and their anxiety. Our nation’s foster youth have already been through enough, from transitioning to multiple homes to having survived abuse or neglect. We deserve to feel safe and supported.
As other students are surely turning to and even living with their parents, foster youth are not so lucky. In fact, they are incredibly vulnerable. That’s why, during this time, I want Congress to hear my concerns. Please increase resources to young people as they transition from foster care.
Specifically, I’m asking members of Congress to increase the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) which provides flexible funding to meet youth’s needs. Support under this program includes help with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support and assured connections to caring adults for older youth in foster care. This program also makes available vouchers for post secondary education and job training. Additionally, young people need improved ways to access Chafee supports, which might mean waivers of work and education requirements during this crisis. These are not things we take for granted.
Lastly, the impact of this crisis may be hitting the health of our elders, but the impact will also be felt particularly by young people in tough places. Please help ensure we don’t fall between the cracks. Young people like me need your support and understanding for all that it took for me to even get to college. I need help to stay on track with my goals for a better future for myself, and for my community.
Until things can go back to normal, I hope Congress will remember us, the young people who have experienced foster care.
This perspective piece written by Cielo Castellanos, a 19 year-old student at College of Southern Nevada.