We at NACAC believe there is tremendous in shared experience and personal advocacy. By telling your story about foster care and adoption, you can
- change the child welfare system
- inspire others to get help or speak up
- help other young people know they are not alone
- change public perceptions of foster and adopted youth
- heal from your experiences and transform them into something positive (but be aware that story-telling alone can be traumatic and you may need support as you share)
There are many ways young people can share their stories and have an impact in support or advocating on behalf of others.
- Blogs can create a network of support and feedback between you and members of your community.
- Poetry and books can be a great way for you to process, understand and make meaning out of the experiences you’ve had. Some people have even made careers out of writing about their experiences or using them for inspiration in works of fiction.
- Journaling is a great alternative to having to be public with your story. Many people use journaling to build their confidence in writing and sharing their stories—it’s a way to practice without an audience. Journaling can also be very therapeutic and help you to process details of your story that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with others.
There is tremendous power in public displays. The Foster Care Museum was a project created by Doug Oakley of California. He wanted to document the stories of youth in foster care through images and artifacts. Youth in care’s lives are often transient or impermanent and the artifacts of those experiences serve as the only documentation or tangible reminder young people have of their stories.
Projects like these enable you to share your experiences anonymously but have great impact. A project like this really highlights the importance of personal safety and comfort for youth. You don’t have to make yourself visible in order to share your story and make a difference.
Country singer Jimmy Wayne was in foster care and has become a youth advocate. The song below, although it’s not his own story, contains elements from his experience that represent the culture and sentiments of foster care. He’s able to communicate intimate details of what his own foster care experience may have been like without re-living the trauma. Songs like this, especially those available to the public, can inform opinions and prompt investment from the community. They can also help young people heal from their past.
Singer Jamie Fox also created a song that beautifully and emotionally explores the power of adoption. NACAC received permission to use the song in a video about what we do:
The following is a video of a young man named Chris Cross who attended a NACAC conference. Originally Chris was shy about sharing his story and didn’t feel comfortable talking in front of a group. Instead for our final day, he performed an original dance piece for the group. He was very nervous but thankfully he was brave enough to share this performance with the group.
Although he’s not verbalizing the specifics of what happened to him, Chris’s dance demonstrates the emotional impact and struggle of what he’s gone through as a product of his experiences. More than the specific details of our stories, raw, communicated emotions, and symbols can really connect us to others with shared experiences. One of the things that makes this dance so powerful is that it allows people in the room to recognize a piece of their own story while relating to Chris’s personal narrative. Sharing your story can have many outcomes and what Chris achieved through this dance was to inspire and promote empowerment in his community.
A few years ago, Foster Care Alumni of America started a project—The Culture of Foster Care—to capture the feel of what it was like to be a part of foster care system growing up. They reached to alumni all over the nation and asked them to create multi-media post cards that talked about a facet of their experience (positive or negative). The group then shared these incredibly powerful images with the community.