Youth Speaking Out
There are a lot of first experiences in a child’s life that many foster youth do not ever have the opportunity to enjoy. But this past May three teenage youth from our Youth Speak Out Group at Sierra Forever Families were able to experience some of these joys. With sponsorship by Jockey Being Family these amazing youth were selected to attend a national conference in Orlando, Florida, hosted by the Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). Attendance at the conference provided them opportunities to experience some first time adventures, such as flying on an airplane and travelling out of state.
A primary goal for the sessions attended by our youth at the conference was to explore the purpose and the means in which youth advocacy groups can be established across the nation. Our Youth Speak Out group at Sierra Forever Families meets monthly. It is a youth empowered group centered on developing ideas that will change foster care in Sacramento. One idea the group has discussed in its sessions at Sierra is the value to youth in foster care of creating stronger, permanent connections while in care. They shared how these connections can make a difference with the other attendees at the conference.
While there, our youth not only were able to explore ideas that they had discussed as a group back home in Sacramento, but also were able to focus on their own personal growth. Each had time to develop his or her own individual story and describe what it was like to be in foster care or what it was like to be adopted or how they felt about being reunified with their families. Interestingly, beyond helping develop their personal stories, these sessions provided a therapeutic outlet for the youth and challenged some of the many barriers they and other adolescents have about permanence.
Over the course of the conference our three youth forged a number of friendships with other attendees. These friendships grew out of their shared purpose of affecting change in the foster care system and wanting to help other children find permanence. Through Youth Speak Out, each youth is gaining opportunities, expanding knowledge, advocating for change, and building connections for the future. Contact Sierra Forever Families at www.sierraff.org. to learn more about this program and other services provided by Sierra.
By Adele Gray and Vanessa Bovee