17 Aug 2022
Foster Forward Empowers Those Left Behind to Foster Futures
Taylor peered into the audience, searching for her for family members. It was a big moment for Taylor. She was about to receive her CNA certificate.
She looked around. None of her family members were in attendance.
“I invited them, but no one came,” said Taylor.
Overcome with disappointment, Taylor looked into the crowd and couldn’t believe who she saw. There to support Taylor was her case worker and another staff member from Foster Forward.
“I had told my family members, but none of them showed up,” she recalled. “But the people from Foster Forward were there to support me. “
That moment changed Taylor’s life – for the better.
“That’s what did it for me,” said Taylor. “I realized these people (at Foster Forward) really care.”
Foster Forward’s mission is to empower those impacted by foster care, including those who have aged out of the system, like Taylor.
“Although our child welfare and juvenile justice systems were designed to protect children, they function in ways that have profoundly disproportionate and negative outcomes for BIPOC children and families. Foster Forward offers targeted programs, resources and advocacy designed to target and dismantle these oppressive policies and practices and replace them with equitable systems that are uniquely responsive to the needs of BIPOC youth and families,” said Forward Forward Executive Director Lisa Guillette.
WIth support of the Papitto Opportunity Connection, Foster Forward is now able to expand its services and staff and ultimately help more youth, teens and young adults of color who have been impacted by foster care move forward with their lives – like Taylor.
“We are so grateful to the Papitto Opportunity Connection’s support,” said Foster Forward’s Bernadette Tavares, who was among those in attendance when Taylor received her CNA certificate. “Funding from POC has helped Foster Forward increase the staff and necessary resources to help youth overcome their individual challenges and make strides toward becoming successful adults.”
A self-described troubled teen raised by a single mom, Taylor entered the state Department of Children, Youth and Families system when she was 16. She attended five different high schools and bounced around between several group homes.
At 18, she signed herself out of DCYF. She entered Volunteer Extension of Care, which supports young adults who want continued help as they begin their adult lives.
Still, Taylor was lost.
“I had nowhere to go,” she said. “I had no one to help me. The people at DCYF are too busy to really look out for you.”
She eventually was in an apartment on top of a group home in Providence. She needed help. She turned to Foster Forward.
At first, she was resistant.
“I have had issues, but at Foster Forward they are willing to give you the help you need. They won’t give up on you…even when you’re ready to give up on yourself. I changed my (phone) number every three months and they always tracked me down to make sure I had everything I needed,” said Taylor. “For a period of time, the people at Foster Forward were the only people in my life.”
Foster Forward offers a variety of free programming and services for those impacted by foster care, including those like Taylor, who are transitioning to adulthood and have little to no support and guidance.
Foster Forward’s centerpiece is the 360 degree Wrap, an array of services and resources including housing support, financial literacy, career exploration, workforce development, therapy and wellness, leadership development, mentoring and more.
Taylor began to take advantage of the free programs. It changed her life.
“Foster Forward helped me to accomplish so many things, big things to just small, including important everyday things like helping me get my driver’s license,” said Taylor.
Foster Forward also worked with Taylor to help her take the first step to her long-term goal – a career in nursing.
“I always wanted to be a nurse,” said Taylor, who is now 22 and hopes to someday become a pediatric nurse. “Foster Forward helped me enroll in a CNA program and took care of everything for me.”
With Foster Forward’s assistance, Taylor was able to get a job as a CNA at Roger Williams Hospital, a position she has held for the past two years.
She is also giving back by working at Foster Forward – assisting the organization that provided so much help to her. Taylor is hoping to help change lives the same way hers was changed.
Taylor’s primary role is in the Works Wonder program – one that she herself benefitted from. The Works Wonders program is a career development and employment engagement program that addresses the career readiness needs connecting foster youth to meaningful employment and paid work experiences. The program has served over 500 youth, with 2/3rds of all participants identifying as BIPOC. The Wonder Works program helps to support the removal of systemic barriers to employment for BIPOC youth. According to Foster Forward, the number of youth employed following program participation increased by 35.7% (from 38.3% to 52%).
Taylor is thrilled to be part of the program and assist others in need.
“I was defiant when I first went to Foster Forward and now, they are like my family,” said Taylor. “They are here for you and provide you with so many free opportunities. I love working there now and helping others.”