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Empowering the next generation of youths in foster care

Earlier this month, 60 young adults ages 18 to 24 traveled to Washington, D.C., for the 2015 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience. It was a wonderful event that brought together young people with personal experience in the foster care system with their congressional representative for a chance to learn from one another.

For two days, they studied issues trending in the foster care world before meeting with their congressman and getting to work. It was an empowering experience for these young adults, and one I was thrilled in which to participate.

Having been in foster care myself for six years, I was there to share my experience with these younger “brothers and sisters” and let them know there are many organizations and foster care alumni ready to lend a hand.

It wasn’t long ago that I was like them and unaware of where to turn. At 18 years old, after aging out of the foster care system, I was unprepared for my newfound “independence” and quickly headed down a rocky path of homelessness and unhealthy life choices. Fortunately for me, I started to turn my life around a few years later with the help of my independent living worker.

She recognized my need for support, saw my potential and got me involved in various advocacy organizations that could help improve foster care for everyone involved.

But, in reality, helping is as easy as signing up for a community foster walk event, mentoring a foster youth, or serving on an advisory board.

For the last 10 years, I have advocated for child welfare issues as a co-founder of the Pennsylvania Chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, a founding member of the Bucks County Youth Advisory Board, a member of the Philadelphia Blue Ribbon Commission on Children’s Behavioral Health, and as a youth partner for the Montgomery County Systems of Care Leadership team. Currently, I serve on the national board of directors for Foster Care Alumni of America.

Krebs-Bass

Constance Krebs (right), board member, Foster Care Alumni of America, had the opportunity to meet with Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif) during the 2015 Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Experience held recently in Washington, D.C.

My involvement was no accident—it happened because several people showed an interest in me and wanted to ensure my voice was heard.

Like these mentors, we should all be concerned with the foster care system and the youths it serves. We want to prepare them to be successful, contributing members of society. I often think I want to adopt 20 children, change the world and do a million different things.

But, in reality, helping is as easy as signing up for a community foster walk event, mentoring a foster youth, or serving on an advisory board.

I will never forget the many incredible people who stepped up and led me to where I am today.

Let’s do the same for the next generation of youths in foster care and inspire them to be successful adults.

For more information on how to get involved in improving the lives of foster youths, visit www.fostercarealumni.org.

~ Constance Krebs

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