Fixing Foster Care: The Power of Youth Voice

The secret to fixing the foster care system lies in the voices of the youth. When you put a group of foster youth in a room together to talk about the system, you get a very dynamic dialogue.

Young adults have some of the most brilliant solutions to problems in the foster care system. They contribute great, strong ideas they can stand by and believe in.

I am one of those youth. My name is Johna Rivers. I recently took a journalism writing class with Fostering Media Connections (FMC).* Let me be the first to say that this class was so powerful, it inspired me to write my first article about my experience. Writing is my passion, and now I have been given an opportunity to do just that.

youth voice workshop
Johna Rivers, seated, third from right, and her peers in the Youth Voice Workshop in downtown Los Angeles on January 23, 2016.

I couldn’t have been more inspired by the other girls in the class, and I know many more of my peers will inspire me.

Now that I’ve been given an opportunity to write about the foster care system, I will highlight issues like foster youth aging out the system and becoming homeless due to lack of resources. Also, politicians are making decisions about a system most of them have never been through.

I say to them: “Who better to talk about what’s wrong and needs to be fixed than the people who have been through the system?”

I also plan to share resources that foster youth should know about, such as great employment and training opportunities specifically for foster youth.

I learned a lot in the five-hour writing workshop with FMC, and now I am going to educate my peers and elders about the truth in the system.

There are amazing community-based organizations making an impact through giving youth a platform to make change. California Youth Connection, for example, is directly making an impact on politicians and the foster care system through their youth-led advocacy.

So I say it’s time to raise our voices even louder as we share our stories and become a part of the decision-making process to change the system.

I asked Lei Fuimaono, administrator of Dream Center’s Freedom House, a transitional housing program for foster and emancipated youth in Los Angeles, what she thought about this topic, and she said: “I think that there is more power in working together.”

If we come together in solidarity, one step at a time, we will create change.

*Fostering Media Connections is also the parent organization of this publication.

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Johna Rivers
About Johna Rivers 3 Articles
Johna Rivers is a 22-year-old activist who rose above her circumstances as a foster youth and beat the statistics. She is co-founder of the first ever film festival for young people, creating a platform for young kids to highlight issues plaguing their communities locally or globally. She has traveled to Africa and Brazil, and is a powerhouse making moves to create change.