As foster youth, we may need resources to keep us on the right track. Because of the additional challenges foster youth face, we find ourselves having to depend on the state for money and answers to our questions. Speaking from my own experience, the system was confusing to navigate. The fact that all of these resources are available to me is greatly appreciated, however I couldn't for the longest time figure out how to receive the benefits. I found, that although the process is frustrating, I was learning the system a lot better by making 1,000 phone calls. I was becoming more comfortable with handling these situations on my own and proved to myself that I could be an adult. The hard work that I put in was well worth it when everything began to fall into place.
One of the resources that I took advantage of in the state of Arizona was ETV (education training voucher). ETV offers need-based assistance for tuition, housing, meals, and other necessities such as a computer that is needed for higher education. At the beginning of my educational path, lot more was necessary than just applying to my favorite school. I had worked so hard in high school, but the fact that I had zero college savings set me back.. When I found out about ETV, my options began to broaden. I could pick the in-state school that I wanted because I would have more financial assistance. There is a lot of paperwork and applications to compete in order to receive the benefits from ETV, however I encourage each and every foster youth to go through the process and take advantage of this resource. You may find that the more effort you put in, the more you will receive to benefit your future.
Reflecting back on my experience, I realized that I missed out on so many different services just because I failed to do the research. I had the mindset that my caseworker would inform me of anything and everything I was eligible for. Little did I know my caseworkers were not the most experienced, and I needed to find these things on my own. Having done the research later on, I have come to discover resources in the state of Arizona that I could have taken advantage of. Some of these include an ombudsman to contact with any questions, comments, or concerns that I had. There is also something called a warm line which is a number that you can call when your caseworker is unavailable. There were a lot of times that my caseworker was unavailable or difficult to contact. If I knew that there was a person that I could have called to answer my questions, I could have eliminated a lot of stress.
Some other resources that are offered to foster youth by the state of Arizona include basic needs assistance. These include culinary classes, finance classes, other basic life skills classes, as well as assistance receiving hygiene items that would not otherwise be available. Unfortunately, I found out about all of this after it was too late and the services were not necessary for me. Had I know that I could have had help learning basic life-skills or getting basic hygiene items and clothes, I would not have gone through the stress of figuring it out on my own.
My words of advice are to take it upon yourself to seek out these resources. Statistically, foster youth have a lower success rate than youth who live at home with their biological families. In an effort to improve these facts, most states provide an increasing amount of services specifically for foster youth. If you need something, chances are that it is out there. All it takes is a little motivation to reach out for help and self advocate. At times you have to be your own cheerleader and prove to different organizations that you are deserving of their services. Never see yourself as undeserving or even too proud to seek help.
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