A former foster youth has created an innovative tool for professionals in the child welfare system through his online course, Fostering Resilience.
Michael Place, now an international public speaker and child rights activist, recently launched Fostering Resilience to help professionals identify and foster resilient behaviors in children.
Place’s commitment to helping foster youth succeed comes from his own experiences in New York’s foster care system. After spending nine years in foster care, Place developed a passion for advocacy.
“I began my career advocating for children in foster care when I entered the system. I would always advocate for myself and my foster brother. As I got older I began advocating for LGBTQ folks,” said Place, now 26.
Place advocated for LGBTQ issues through the Westchester Family and Children Services leadership council starting at the age of 16. Meanwhile, Place also worked to improve communication around mental health treatment of children in foster care. He also went on to work with foster youth advocacy organizations like the California Youth Connection and the National Center for Youth Law, among others.
Reflecting on his own story inspired Place to try to understand why some foster children become success stories and why others don’t. He found that his success was due to his strong sense of self and his relationships with others, but Place knew that he was not the only one with this potential.
“What was clear to me is that I wasn’t just the exception,” Place said.
Advocacy allowed Place to feel empowered. However, he believed all foster youth could feel empowered and be resilient, if they had opportunities that allowed them to grow.
“We need to figure out a way to empower youth about their trauma,” Place said. “We tend to see youth as victims, but the reality is we need to find ways to approach youth in empowering ways.”
Fostering Resilience is designed to do just that.
Place’s online course is based on scientifically proven practices and academic literature, and is designed to help professionals improve their understanding of trauma and its effects on children and young adults. The course is designed for organizations and individuals who work with children in foster care as well as foster parents. Place’s own narrative allows the course to be more engaging.
In addition to addressing trauma, Place further introduces his own definition of resilience in the course.
Resilience means facing adverse life experiences without losing hope for a better future, and believing in your ability to get to that future, according to Place.
Although many scholars believe resilience is the ability to “bounce back,” Place disagrees. He argues that if children have nothing but traumatic experiences growing up, they have nothing to bounce back to.
He hopes his framework of resilience can better help youth in care.
Place’s advice to foster youth is to build a strong sense of self by recognizing their own value and potential.
“Understand that no matter what your circumstances may say, you are valuable and it’s through understanding your value that you’ll be able to navigate the foster care system,” Place said.
Since his time in care, Place has also shared his story as part of the “Fostering the Future” Children’s Rights Campaign and was the keynote speaker for the Family Focused Treatment Association conference in 2015. He has also shared his experiences in The Chronicle of Social Change and other media outlets.
He is pursuing a master’s degree in organizational leadership in Melbourne, Australia, and wants to become a leadership consultant for young entrepreneurs.
Instead of focusing on the systemic issues of the foster care system, Place wants to help children who are going through the system in its current state.
Learn more about Place’s course, Fostering Resilience, here.