SaySo + Foster Parents = A Powerful TeamSaySo seeks adult supporters
by Chaney Stokes •
The success of SaySo is due at least in part to the support and involvement of North Carolina’s foster parents. Now that we are in our 20th year, we need the involvement of foster parents more than ever to help us support the success of youth in foster care. To help explain why, I’d like to share with you the story of “Kim” and her foster parents, the “Smiths.”
Kim and the Smiths
Kim, who’s almost 18, has been in foster care for the last six years and currently lives with the Smiths. They have taken good care of her and want to make sure she’ll be successful when she’s on her own.
Overall, things have been great between Kim and the Smiths. But as is the case with most teens in most families, things aren’t perfect. The Smiths have a hard time trying to get Kim to make her meals, fold her own laundry, and do small household chores.
At the same time, Kim’s been very active in sports, and is a decent (but not great) student. She wants to go to college, but has been heard to say, “As long as I’m good at sports, I’ll definitely get into college.”
The Smiths struggle getting Kim to think about and prepare for her future. When they talk to her about the importance of becoming independent and getting good grades, it feels as though what they say is going in one ear and out the other.
This makes them worry. They know that many youth leave care without the skills, connections, or support they need. They know that, as a result, compared to other young adults former foster youth suffer disproportionately from poverty, incarceration, homelessness, lower levels of education, and unemployment.
Finally, The BIG DAY finally arrives: Kim turns 18. It is time for Kim to enter the REAL WORLD and make her own way. Opportunities are waiting for her! Nervous and excited, she tells the Smiths she’s ready to get started.
“OK, Kim,” the Smiths say. “You will need to locate a job, a place to live, and achieve your educational goals. Also, you need some kind of transportation, and a savings account.”
Finally, Kim realizes she does not know how to do many of these things. Mr. and Mrs. Smith knew all along that Kim would have a difficult time making it in the REAL WORLD. They just wish she had listened to them sooner.
Why We Do What We Do
Many young people are just like Kim. Talking and coaching from adults is sometimes not enough to help them prepare for their future. Often, they need to see real life examples of what they will go through. They need to talk with peers about these situations, before they really commit to preparing for independence.
Caregivers, this is a problem SaySo can help you with! SaySo (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out) is a youth-driven organization that can help support your efforts by creating a space where youth can find their own identity, focus on becoming independent, and advocate for their needs.
SaySo Helps Support NC’s Independent Living Goals
All youth leaving North Carolina’s foster care system shall:
- Have sufficient economic resources to meet their daily needs.
- Have a safe and stable place to live.
- Attain academic or vocational/educational goals that are in keeping with the youth’s abilities and interests.
- Have a sense of connectedness to persons and community. This means that every youth, upon exiting foster care, should have a personal support network of at least 5 responsible adults who will remain supportive of the young adult over time.
- Avoid illegal/high risk behaviors.
- Postpone parenthood until financially established and emotionally mature.
- Have access to physical and mental health services, as well as a means to pay for those services.
- Have had the opportunity to participate in age- and developmentally-appropriate activities and experiences while in foster care.
SaySo has created a platform for youth to educate the community and speak out about needed changes, while also supporting one another in their individual growth. SaySo has been recognized with respect in North Carolina and nationally as a youth-driven advocacy organization that prides itself on bringing the voices of youth to the table where it matters. Our founding members felt youth needed to be more involved in advocating and policy development for young people in substitute care.
SaySo understands the power in the voices of youth in care. We organize events to help youth with independent living skills and provide youth the opportunity to give back. This is done through training, leadership, shared learning, and advocacy.
SaySo is looking for adult supporters.
To be even more helpful to youth and their caregivers, SaySo is inviting foster parents to become more involved. For example, we are looking for adult supporters. These individuals support youth board members by providing transportation and chaperoning (if necessary) them when they attend SaySo functions. If necessary, SaySo, Inc. can even reimburse adult supporters for travel expenses so youth can participate at our events. For more information about upcoming events, visit www.saysoinc.org.
You can also get involved online by connecting with us on social media: like us on Facebook @saysoinc.
Together, caring adults and SaySo can help youth strive for success and become more than their situation. Join our efforts to help youth in care not only survive, but THRIVE!
To get connected, contact us at [email protected] or 919-384-1457.
SaySo Celebrates 20 Years! On Saturday, March 3, 2018 over 250 young people and their adult supporters came together at Guilford Technical Community College to celebrate youth leadership, discuss issues relevant to youth in foster care, and celebrate SaySo’s 20th birthday. This was an amazing event with many inspirational stories. Our keynote speaker, Brandon Porter, shared his personal journey and encouraged each of us to “be our own hero.” Melinda Medina, alumna and co-founder, shared her story of resiliency and what it means to be a true leader. Other alumni and SaySo members present were Nicole Lyght and Roman Rys, who both contributed to the overall success of SaySo Saturday. This annual event has now become more and more of reunion for many alumni.
A New Chapter. SaySo Saturday was also a day to acknowledge the creation of a new SaySo Local Chapter – Nash County! We also acknowledged 27 other local chapters that have participated in SaySo events throughout the state. We would like to wish all our local chapters a Happy Birthday and are eager to see more local chapters get started. For a list of our local chapters, visit our website at www.saysinc.org.
With such a huge success this year, we are looking forward to 2019, which will be SaySo’s 21st birthday! Be on the lookout for more information soon.
Chaney Stokes is Program Coordinator for SaySo.