Friday, October 29, 2010

When life is Not.So.TV.

About 29,000 youth age out of foster care every year without the support they need to succeed. Janessa, a foster care alum and social work student at the University of Northern Iowa, graciously agreed to share how support made a difference for her. She's now very involved in giving back to youth in care, and we hope to hear more from her in the future! Here's Janessa's story:

Entering foster care

At 21, I recognize that life is like a card game in a sense. It’s not always about winning or losing, but instead how you deal the cards that you are dealt. I could spend all my time searching for answers and asking questions as like, “Why me?” If this were the case I would not be who I am, or where I am today.

Mahatma Ghandi said, “The future depends on what we do in the present.”

I entered the Iowa foster care system just one month after I turned 14. I was in the 8th grade. My mom at the time was dealing with issues of her own that were getting in the way of her ability to parent, so the State saw fit that my two sisters and me be removed from the home. Immediately we were split up. I went to a youth shelter and my sisters went to live with my grandparents. This was a huge challenge for me. I had already been taken from the only thing I knew (home) and now I was being separated from the only two people who I’d had naturally bonded with my whole life.

“Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt to you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.” Jawaharal Nehru

At a young age I decided that no matter what I was going through I would persevere. My only option was to move forward. I pledged to keep my head on straight regardless of what my peers had to say, what my family had to say, and regardless of what statistics claimed my future would be. My reality at the time did not have to determine my destiny.

I don’t want to give anyone the impression that this was easy. I’m not superwoman, and I never will be! I’ve experienced feelings of rejection, loneliness, and even depression as many other foster kids can attest to. There were many nights that I didn’t believe I would make it through.

Reason to believe

Today, I am a college student, actively involved on a foster care youth board called Elevate, and a young advocate for youth in the foster care system. Looking back on my foster care experience I have many people to credit to my successes. Without the help of several supportive adults there is no way I would be where I am today. Having people like my social worker, GAL (Guardian At Litem), CASA worker, and TLP worker recognize my goals, talents, and encourage me through education and personal development gave me reason to believe in myself.

To learn more about how to become involved in the life of a current or former foster youth, visit Foster Club or contact your local Department of Human Services.

“…The recognition and support of those around you is nurturing.” -Rosemarie Rossetti


Janessa is helping raise awareness about the real life challenges of young people today through a documentary series called Not.So.TV. Check out her promo video below!


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