2013 Outstanding Young Leader
22 years old
Spent time in Maine's foster care system
Jessica Henderson understands the nuances of being a foster youth with no real background to hold on to. She sees that for many foster youth, an emotional wall is constructed to protect them from the mental trauma that comes with constant separation and family reassignment. She grew up in Nevada, but was migrated by the foster system for over a decade, and now finds herself enrolled in college in Maine. Jessica sees that the trouble only begins for foster youth once they reach the age of independence. Jessica works to educate future foster parents on the pitfalls of adoption and parenting. She frequently sits in on question and answer panels that inform future foster parents on what to expect and how to properly handle adoption. She tries to impart the fact that “when first entering a home…[many youth] will have a protective wall up to keep themselves emotionally safe,” but that this wall can be broken and a loving relationship can take its place. Jessica also works as a member of the Bangor Youth Leadership Advisory Team and recently joined a new group called Foster Youth in College that helps current and past foster youth find the resources to either enroll or succeed inside the higher education system. Jessica hopes to work as a foster care caseworker for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “to help other kids like [her] find amazing homes/families who will love them just the way they are.” She sees that when youth help themselves, they are helping all of their peers simply by setting an example of success. The struggle doesn’t end with independence from the foster care system. It only begins. And Jessica is doing everything she can to make that transition an opportunity by creating a world of acceptance and empowerment.
Biography written by FosterClub volunteer: Grant Smith
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