Former Foster Youth Shares Her Experience as a Teen in Foster Care
There is a common misconception that teens and older children are more difficult to foster than other age groups. Although there can be challenging situations we know that most teens and older children in foster care just want a safe home and someone who cares about them! Today we’re happy to share the story of one former foster youth and her experience as a teen in foster care. By sharing her story she hopes to inspire others to consider fostering teens and older children.
Going Into Foster Care
Ashley Collier entered foster care at the age of 17. She was split up from her younger brother, niece, and nephews who were all sent to different foster homes. Alone from the only family she knew, Collier found herself in a juvenile shelter. On the drive to the shelter, Collier’s case worker informed her, “most people don’t want teens because they think they can be dangerous or too hard to deal with.” Collier just wished someone had given her a chance.
“I can see how that may scare people away from taking in a 17-year-old, but that night I was just a very scared kid who needed a warm place to sleep and process everything I was going through at that moment. None of those families even gave me a chance to show them how good of a kid I was.
Collier was determined to go back to high school and graduate. So she chose to stay in foster care past her 18th birthday. Collier would go on to spend the next 3 years in foster care. And over those years she stayed at two family placements, a juvenile shelter, and finally with a foster family that was down the street from her last family placement.
Learning To Be Independent
Collier knew she had to prepare for life after foster care and learn how to be independent. So she joined an Independent Living Program during her senior year of high school! During this program, Collier would meet with her program mentor and discuss the skills she would need to learn in order to be successful after transitioning out of foster care.
“We met up with other youth my age at a local bank to learn how to open accounts and about how to save money. We met with a mechanic to learn about changing a flat tire and checking your vehicle’s fluids. I also remember getting instructions for many other life skills printed up for me to keep regarding effective grocery shopping and how-to manage paying bills.
“The knowledge I gained from the Independent Living Program remains with me still and I often think about how different things could have been had I not been apart of that program
We’re so glad Collier was able to learn valuable life skills from the Independent Living Program! Unfortunately, there are foster youths who are not aware of the resources and support available to help prepare them with transitioning out of foster care. As a result, many former foster youth are more likely to struggle with challenges such as homelessness and financial problems. Currently, 20% of former foster youth will face homelessness.
Finding A Role Model
Aging out of foster care and going through the transition to independent living can be a scary process. That’s why it’s important for foster youth to have a mentor figure to help them succeed! Collier had help from the Independent Living Program but she also found a role model in Lisa.
Collier met Lisa during her years in foster care while she finished high school. Lisa worked at the school and instantly took an interest in Collier. Collier liked knowing that someone cared about her and was always there for her when she needed help.
“Lisa has been a role model and inspiration for me since the day we met and a mentor to me in so many ways. I have a very strained relationship with my biological mother and did not grow up with the greatest example of how to be a good mother.
A Happy Ending
The two stayed connected after Collier graduated and went on to attend college. At 25 years old Collier became a single mom to a beautiful little girl! Lisa helped Collier navigate motherhood by offering continuous support and motherly advice.
“She has taught me more than just the unconditional love I always longed for but also how to show up and be there in all the ways a parent should be. I am forever grateful for not only all she has taught and continues to teach me about being a good mother but for helping me heal the hole in my heart where I was missing my relationship with my biological mom.
Over the years Lisa and Collier developed a chosen-family bond. This is why we’re so happy to announce that after all this time Lisa knew she wanted Collier to be part of her forever family! At 31 years old Collier was officially adopted by Lisa. This happy ending proves that it’s never too late to find your forever family!
Resources For Foster Youth
Finding resources and support programs for foster youth can have a big impact on their success after foster care. But the good news is that there are many organizations that offer programs and scholarships to foster youth! Collier encourages teens in foster care to take advantage of the resources available to them.
“Programs, mentors, opportunities for growth, and when the time comes scholarships for college or job programs. I feel like I had no idea about all of the help that was available to foster youth before I was almost too late to take advantage of them.
As a matter of fact, Together We Rise is proud to offer scholarships to current and former foster youth! Programs such as Rapid Response and the Family Fellowship scholarship help alleviate the financial burdens current and former foster youth face while pursuing higher education! Together We Rise is also proud to offer the American Industries Scholarship to foster youth who are pursuing a trade degree/certification.
“Foster care can be very tough depending on so many things. The goal should always be to protect and nurture children in need and to help them prosper despite the circumstances that are out of [their] control. The world has to stop turning a blind eye to these kids and find ways to support them. There are many ways to show support even if you are unable to become a foster parent and it is worth looking into.
Youth In Foster Care
We want to thank Ashley Collier for sharing her story and advocating for youth in foster care! If you are thinking of becoming a foster parent, please consider fostering older children and teens! You can make a real difference in the life of a youth in foster care.
If you aren’t able to become a foster parent at this time consider making a donation to Together We Rise. An organization that works to transform the way children experience foster care.