More than anything, I want to create a world where youth in foster care don’t have to fear being alone and not having a place to live. That is why I’m attending Cal State Los Angeles, studying to become a social worker. In fact, just before the pandemic hit, I had received my offer letter to do my fieldwork placement to complete my bachelor’s degree in social work. I was so very excited about this opportunity because my dreams of giving back to the foster care system are so close to being realized. I was becoming self-sufficient and flourishing on my college campus.
But now, as a former foster youth in the middle of the Covid-19 crisis, I find myself floundering. I’m lonely, hungry and homeless. Just like that, my transition to adulthood became even more difficult. For youth in foster care, transitioning to adulthood is challenging and often faced without family support.
Nevertheless, I am confident that I will succeed. It’s in the fabric of my makeup.
A former foster youth refuses to give up as her circumstances worsen amid the pandemic
I’m what they call “housing insecure” which means I don’t have a stable place to live. I go between couch surfing and living out of my RV. I also don’t have a quiet place to study because my school campus is closed. Almost everything in the community is closed, making it hard for me to access WiFi and electrical power, which means my schoolwork is in jeopardy. School is my major escape. It’s what I pour all of my time and energy into. Thinking about my future is what makes me forget the pain of my past.
I’m sad that I can’t see my therapist in my normal routine. I have OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] and anxiety as well as a pre-existing heart condition. Additionally, I have canceled all of my doctor’s appointments because I am scared of exposing myself to the virus. I fear the worst, getting sick and facing death due to being in the vulnerable health category.
Many programs that offer assistance are impacted. My school is offering students emergency grants, but only if you take out loans. That fieldwork placement I was so excited about, the Department of Children and Family Services intern program, only offers stipends to students from CSU Long Beach, not students from Cal State Los Angeles. DCFS doesn’t acknowledge the financial inequity in this policy, nor the problem as so many students are struggling.
For food, I can usually go to local food banks when I need; however, all of the food banks are severely strained. I’ve been turned down as they can no longer provide food boxes to a single-person household. It’s an unfair predicament to be in; it pits one vulnerability against another. I know that other youth like me, formerly in foster care, will fall between the cracks during this crisis just when we were positioned to get a leg up in life.
On the bright side, I’m thankful for kind people who understand the challenging place youth like me are in. Recently, I met a lady who lets me take showers at her house. During this time of serious isolation, I find her to be very nice company.
In the news, I hear about Congress taking action to support hurting businesses and corporations. I want to call on members of Congress to remember youth like me, those on the margins of our society. Specifically, I want to ask for increased support to programs that help us in real time, programs such as the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, which provides flexible funding to meet youth’s needs. Programs under Chafee include help with vouchers for education and job training, employment, financial management, housing and emotional support. Rep. Danny Davis (D) from Illinois recently introduced a bipartisan bill, H.R. 7947, that would do many of these things. I hope that the California delegation to Congress will join him in calling for more support for young people from foster care.
My hope right now is that my experiences and concerns don’t fall on deaf ears. I want youth currently in foster care and former foster youth to feel supported and looked after in this time of uncertainty.
This story originally appeared in The Imprint, a daily news publication dedicated to rigorous, in-depth journalism focused on families and the systems that impact their lives.