I am pleased to introduce a guest post from Shenandoah Chefalo, whom I follow on Twitter.
Shenandoah is writing a memoir about her childhood, including her time in foster care. Fueled by these experiences, she has dedicated her life to educating others and promoting change in the system.
This is what she has to say:
WHY GARBAGE BAG SUITCASES MATTER
Recently I read this silly quote in an illustrated Calvin & Hobbes book while waiting in line: “It’s funny how day by day, nothing changes. But when you look back everything is different.” The line really stuck with me.
Many people do not understand the relationship between the foster-care system and other social agencies including, but not limited to, the criminal justice system, the welfare system, unemployment, homelessness, mental health services, alcohol and drug addiction, and that most foster children are condemned to a life in poverty—a sort of pipeline or highway system that transports foster kids to the next exit: “Homelessness 2 miles,” “Prison: Next Right”
There are over 400,000 children in foster care every day in the United States alone. Out of those children, nearly 23,000 “age out*” every year. Once they age out, less than 58 percent will graduate from high school. Over 50 percent will become homeless within the first year after leaving the system. By the age of 24 less than half will be employed.
The numbers don’t get better. By some reports it is believed that over 80 percent of our prison population is comprised of individuals who, at some point in their lives, had been foster children. The toll this failing system is taking on our children, on our communities and our tax dollars must be reformed, and new solutions must be implemented. We owe it to our children.
Garbage Bag Suitcase is my forthcoming memoir of my wholly dysfunctional journey through a childhood filled with neglectful, drug- and alcohol-addicted parents, constant moves in the middle of the night, multiple schools, lack of food, and loneliness.
Forgotten birthdays, drug-fueled parties and empty pantries were the norm in whichever household I ended up residing.
But Garbage Bag Suitcase is also more than that. After overcoming my many adversities from my childhood and my time in foster care, I have set out on a mission to reform the foster-care system. It is time to educate the general population about the atrocious statistics that surround these children and the outcomes that await them after their time in foster care.
If you are interested in learning ways in which you can get involved to reform the foster-care system, please contact me via any of my social media sites or join my newsletter at http://www.garbagebagsuitcase.com. None of us can change the past; it has already happened, but together we can make the best of today, and make tomorrow great!
* Aging out refers to unadopted children in the system transitioning from foster care to independent living.
Shenandoah Chefalo is a foster-care alumnus. She is a writer and advocate for foster youth and foster-care reform. You can learn more about her and her work at http://www.facebook.com/garbagebagsuitcase.