Created in the spring of 2020, LSNJ's Reunified Youth Foster Project gives former foster youth an opportunity to share their unique perspective on the needs of youth while in foster care—in particular, what they believe families need to prevent unnecessary removals and expedite reunifications.
These youth successfully reunified with their families after traumatic removals, years in different stranger foster placements, and limited visits with their parents and siblings while in foster care. They are now empowered to share their stories with child welfare professionals in order to advocate for the needs of youth in foster care. They emphasize the importance of keeping families together and working toward swift reunifications in cases of removal. One youth, Indira, who entered foster care when she was 13 years old, says the following on the importance of family reunification:
Reunification is what I wished for during my time in foster care. It was painful being separated from my siblings and my mother, and it hurt me trying to hold on to that hope that I had of being reunified with my family.
The video above includes comments from the members of the Reunified Youth Foster Project about the need to expeditiously resume in-person family time for children in out-of-home placements, which was suspended from March to July 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will continue to speak on relevant issues plaguing the child welfare system, utilizing their lived experiences to incite change. Click on the names below to visit their individual pages and learn more about their experiences.
My dream is to be an advocate for children like me. I want my story and other children's stories to be heard. I want other children to know they can overcome adversity. At times, I wished I had someone I could relate to, someone who knows what it's like and how hard it is. I want to be that person for children like me.
I hope child protective services (CPS) will start thinking differently—stop taking kids away from families, especially those kids who want to be with their parents. CPS should be better with communication and offering help to parents who show potential and love their children.
I want to be an engineer and study in that field. I see my mom study as she becomes a nurse and that makes me think I can do the same. I want people to know that a mistake is not a life sentence and that my mom should never have been discounted. I am so lucky to be reunified with her.
I would like the system to understand what they put children through when they separate them from their families. They need to understand what it is like separate kids from their parents without providing communication or telling children what is happening.