Only 3 Percent of Foster Kids Graduate College — Meet One of Them Who Defied the Odds

Felicitas Reyes Photo By:Vanessa Sanchez


On a warm evening in Los Angeles, amid the roar of applause and rowdy cheers at USC’s commencement ceremony on May 12, Felicitas Reyes clutched her college diploma and wondered if she might be dreaming.
“It was what I’d wanted since forever, but it felt so surreal,” Reyes tells PEOPLE.
Reyes, who grew up in and out of foster care to escape the “roller coaster” chaos of life at home, is a statistical anomaly – and a shining example of someone who refuses to give up on a dream.
Last year, over 20,000 young women and men between the ages of 18 and 21 (it varies by state) aged-out of the foster care system, many of whom ended up losing government assistance, which further complicates the uncertainty in their already traumatic lives.
Yet only 3 percent of these kids manage to accomplish what Reyes just did – and graduate college. “I just always knew that if I wanted to make another type of life for myself, college was the only way,” she says. To read more on this story by Johnny Dodd Click Here.

SHARE:

From The Heart: Reflections from Former and Current Foster Youth


In honor of Foster Care Month, we bring to you a series entitled “From The Heart: Reflections from Former and Current Foster Youth”
We will feature stories, poems, letters, art and other forms of creative expression from current and former foster youth submitted to help raise awareness about what is most important to youth who have and are experiencing the ups and downs of being in foster care. 

Help us raise awareness and educate the community about foster care!

The first installment is a group of letters written by a current foster youth preparing to age out this month.

Pt. 1

Foster care is not fun or easy. Its honestly one of the most heartbreaking yet life-changing experiences... Heart breaking in the sense that you are taken away from the only mom you've ever known at odd hours of the night because your neighbors called the police because they heard screaming and yelling and they were pretty sure the kid next door was being abused so the cops call cps (child protective services) and they come and take you away... While , yes, your mother has been beating you senseless and many nights have gone by as you watch her sleep because she's drugged herself, contemplating running away at 8 years old, she is your mother, the only mother you've ever known, and although she hasn't done jack for you, you still love her, and your 8 year old brain cannot comprehend why you're being taken away from her because you are not aware that the way she treats you is not normal, because it’s the only way you know and to you its normal... Life changing I'm the sense that you learn what normal is. (If there is even such a thing as normal)... I did not become a foster kid at 8 years old but that was the first time I was ever taken from my mom... My dad went to prison when I was 7 for rape and DHR had been a thing in my life ever since, I got taken away from my mom the first time when I was 8 because a neighbor reported child abuse and they took me away that night... I went to my aunt’s house but I acted there, so I got sent to trinity hospital... And that's when my journey began... I'm not gonna go into full detail about my life because well its quite depressing instead I'm going to give people advice... Not that I'm the best advice giver but these are my views on foster care and hopefully someone will find them useful...

Pt. 2
To foster parents and foster parents to be, if you are not willing to deal with a child's "mental baggage" please do not take any children into your home... Foster children have been through so much neglect and abuse... We have experienced so much pain and heartbreak that we expect it from whoever we come in contact with... When a foster child comes into your home they most likely are not going trust you, they are not gonna want to be in your home and you're going to have issues... It just happens. We come into your home and expect the worst, why, because the worst is we all we know... In my opinion a good foster parent will be patient and while they will not understand what the child is going through unless they've been through it themselves, they will try to empathize with the child. Understand that these children have been through so much... They have seen things that kids their age should never see... Be patient... Talk to them... Try to understand why they act the way they because I promise you, while they may not be willing to talk at first, if you gain their trust, pray for them, if they comfortable with it, pray with them, show them that you care, prove to them you aren't going to give up on them, show them that you won't hurt them, and eventually they will open... All we want is to feel loved... In court and many other places we hear the words that we "ARE NOT WANTED" "Nobody wants 'this child' your honor" do you know how bad those words hurt??? A lot I can tell you that... I'm 20 I will be 21 on May 20th I came into foster care at 11 maybe 12 years old and I cannot count how many times I have heard those words... Do I believe them? I do? Because every foster parent I have ever had has not taken the time to sit down and talk to me. Has not tried to figure out why I have so much hatred in my heart... I should've been brought into foster care when I was born but I wasn't and that's hardly anyone's fault, but 11 years of being abused does a lot to a person emotionally, physically, and mentally. And on top of that many many many foster parents giving up on you and judges, social workers, therapists, telling you that you will be just like your mother doesn't help much either... I age out May 20 2017 and I cannot wait to become a foster parent and show all the future foster kids how truly loved they are and to create many more success stories...

Pt. 3
To DHR I used to hate DHR but after a little growing and seeing that if it weren't for y'all I'd be dead or in jail I am ever so grateful to have y'all... DHR is basically the only parents I've ever had... You guys provided me with shelter, clothes, food, life skills, and so much love for the most part hard love but nevertheless love, and compassion to get me through this difficult journey... I know that when I age out I can call some of you up if ever I need you and you'll be there for me... I know that even after I age out you guys will still guide me in the direction I need to go in order to become a success story... I love y'all... While the system is pretty crappy you guys are pretty awesome... I can only speak for my county and a few of the state workers... But I love y'all...
Pt. 4
To the world, my middle and high School years I was labeled as a bad kid because I'm in foster care... I just want y'all to know foster children are not bad kids... That really is no such thing as a bad kid... Troubled maybe, bad, not at all... One of my best friends my 8th grade year came to me one day and said to me, my mom said that you are a bad influence because you're in foster care, so she won't let me hang out with you, I'm sorry... And she walked away... It happened again my junior year... And my senior and I just haven't really tried to make any more friends because people don't understand... I am not a bad kid... I have never been in trouble with the law, I have never ran away, I have never gotten expelled, grounded only once, and I have been a straight A&B student my whole life... I could never hurt a fly, and for someone to come up to me and tell me those words is so heart breaking... I felt my whole entire soul just crush more and more each time that friend ignored me... I could tell she wanted to talk me, but she was obeying her mother... I hated her mother for those words, but then again I understood that she was only uneducated in the foster care world and she needed to be educated... So I wrote her a letter and gave it to my friend whether or not she received I have no clue, but I feel I did the right thing...
Pt. 5
Last but not least
To foster kids and future foster kids...

Never give up... While yes life is full of downfalls and change and stress and you name it... It is also beautiful... I know you have so much hatred towards so many people in your life but I promise they are not worth your precious time... You have to get up wipe your hands clean and move... It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to scream, it's okay to feel like you have no control, because trust me with DHR in your life you won't have much control but you can control much more than you think... Go into each home with an open-mind I only wish I had... My journey would've been a lot easier... Approach each home with a smile no matter how bad you want to cry, COMMUNICATE!!! I cannot stress that enough, if some things not right talk to you therapist, social worker, foster mom... Anybody... They are there for you... It may not always seem like it but they are... I'm crying like a baby right now because I'm hurting for your future...I only wish someone would have given me this advice because I would've been so much better off... Talk to your foster parents... They are only human, not mind readers... They don't know what's wrong unless you tell them... You can't get the help you need unless you speak up... And if you're as hardheaded and as stubborn as me you probably believe that you don't need help, but trust me you do... You are carrying so much more than you realize and if you hold it all in you’re gonna explode and that usually ends badly... Take it from me... I’ve been in your shoes... I've walked that road... It’s dark it’s scary... But all these people... Utilize them... They are here for you!!! They love you!!! And they want only the best for you... You are a star!!! You can let life make you or break you, but I pray you let it make you because I love success stories, they are the only stories worth reading and I want to read yours!!! So don't give... Keep your held high a smile on your face and an open mind and you will go places☺
SHARE:

Camp Life 2017: 14-16 year old registration open!



It’s open!
Now is the time to register your 14-16 year olds for Camp Life II!
Registration for this age group will be open until June 8, 2017!
Please get your youth registered AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
NOTE: We had to create a waiting list for the 17-20 year olds, so get them registered NOW!

SHARE:

Ultimate Wish Tour | Teaser 2017


An emotional, eye opening, road trip series, granting wishes to some of America's 400,000+ Forgotten Children. May is National Foster Care Awareness Month.
Watch New episodes every night until May 1st. Seven volunteers and one filmmaker, in a cramped RV, set out on a mission to touch the lives of American foster children across the country. Everyone can make a difference through One Simple Wish, even from the comfort of your own home. Follow the tour on YouTube to see how you can help. Support our children, Share the series!
SHARE:

From the Heart series


In honor of Foster Care Month, we will kick off a series entitled “From The Heart: Reflections from Former and Current Foster Youth”

We will feature stories, poems, letters, art and other forms of creative expression from current and former foster youth submitted to help raise awareness about what is most important to youth who have and are experiencing the ups and downs of being in foster care.

Please support them by sharing their stories and liking our pages.

Help us raise awareness and educate the community about foster care!

The first installment is a group of letters written by a current foster youth preparing to age out this month.

 
SHARE:

Lee Daniels Opens Up About Becoming a ‘Really Proud’ Foster Parent


Extraordinary Families, a nonprofit that provides foster care services, held its second annual gala Wednesday that gave NBC’s “This Is Us” and Lee Daniels a pat on the back for accurate portrayals and representation of foster families in television.
NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke was on hand to present the Luminary Award trophy to “This Is Us” exec producer Jess Rosenthal at the Beverly Hilton, and described the series as “a cultural phenomenon.”
“With shows like ‘This Is Us,’ it’s impossible not to think of television as the place to be for programming that is insightful, emotional and influential,” Salke said.
To read more on this story by Mannie Holmes via Variety.com Click Here.
SHARE:

Congratulations to Dr. Sebrena Jackson, Founder and Director of the National Social Work


Congratulations to Dr. Sebrena Jackson, Founder and Director of the National Social Work Enrichment Program (NSEP) who was chosen as Social Worker of the Year at the NASW conference this week! We are proud to call you our partner in advocating for Independent Living teens!
SHARE:

Camp registration for 17-20 year olds is now open!




Camp registration for 17-20 year olds is now open!
Remember this camp will be held June 20th -22nd so please make sure your youth are OFF WORK for those couple of days if possible BEFORE
you sign them up! (We had a lot of last minute cancellations last year)  We want them to work, but if they are not going to be able to get off or don’t want to come, we would rather try to get those who are able and willing to register! 

Also NSEP is held the same time as Camp Life.
Please take time to assess what will be best for your particular young person.  If they are still needing some experience on a college campus, uncertain about college or this is really their first time interacting with other youth at this capacity, Camp Life may be for them. 

NSEP is a 6 week program and some youth are just not ready for that long period of time.  If, however, your youth has been to camp a couple of times and is really considering college, then maybe NSEP may be a better fit.

WE WILL ONLY BE TRANSPORTING AMBASSADORS from NSEP this year!
Make sure they are signed up for what is most appropriate!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!

As always we WILL provide transportation, we will have bus stops in additional counties this year, so stay tuned for more information!

We have some VERY cool things in store for our youth this year, I have some youth contacting me already making sure they know when registration starts!  J

SHARE:

Camp registration for 17-20 year olds is now open!




Camp registration for 17-20 year olds is now open!
Remember this camp will be held June 20th -22nd so please make sure your youth are OFF WORK for those couple of days if possible BEFORE
you sign them up! (We had a lot of last minute cancellations last year)  We want them to work, but if they are not going to be able to get off or don’t want to come, we would rather try to get those who are able and willing to register! 

Also NSEP is held the same time as Camp Life.
Please take time to assess what will be best for your particular young person.  If they are still needing some experience on a college campus, uncertain about college or this is really their first time interacting with other youth at this capacity, Camp Life may be for them. 

NSEP is a 6 week program and some youth are just not ready for that long period of time.  If, however, your youth has been to camp a couple of times and is really considering college, then maybe NSEP may be a better fit.

WE WILL ONLY BE TRANSPORTING AMBASSADORS from NSEP this year!
Make sure they are signed up for what is most appropriate!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me!

As always we WILL provide transportation, we will have bus stops in additional counties this year, so stay tuned for more information!

We have some VERY cool things in store for our youth this year, I have some youth contacting me already making sure they know when registration starts!  J

SHARE:

We are back at it. Dream Council Meeting 4/22/2017


Don't Forget,we’re back at it!

Get your youth excited and ready for our next Dream Council meeting.
We had over 60 youth attend the last Dream Council, but we didn’t have many responses, which is essential for our host counties when they are ordering food.

Our next Dream Council meeting will be Saturday April 22, 2017 from 10 am – 2pm at Dallas County DHR (200 Sam Moseley Drive Selma, AL 36702).
They need to come dressed in their best business casual wear, it doesn’t have to be perfect, but they need to try!
SHARE:
© IL Connect. All rights reserved.
BLOGGER TEMPLATE MADE BY pipdig