Join a virtual support group with Voices of the Commonwealth members every Friday at 3 PM Central/4 PM Eastern. RSVP to email@example.com and the Google Hangouts link or a phone number for conference call will be sent to you.
By Tamara Vest
My name is Tamara Vest. I am a 23-year-old former foster youth from Kentucky. I am currently a senior at the University of Kentucky finishing my bachelor’s degree in Social Work. I was in out of home care for around 8 years. I aged out of foster care when I was 18 and did not extend my commitment to the state. I have had a pretty decent handle on my life since aging out. My resiliency and determination that I developed during foster care has always led me to ‘make things work’ out here in life. However, with the new COVID-19 crisis, it has been hard to just ‘make things work’.
I am used to providing for myself through my job but now I have had a dramatic reduction in hours due to COVID-19. I am not receiving near enough in unemployment to cover even half of my rent each month. Aside from financial issues, staying inside has been very difficult to adapt to. I have always been a person that loves to be outside and loves to stay busy all the time.
Without a job, with gym’s closing and school being moved to online classes and stay-at-home orders in place, I have found it difficult to find activities to keep myself busy. This has taken a toll on my mental health. Online classes have made it harder for me to learn as I feel that I am basically teaching myself the material, and it is especially hard as a senior in college because I am in the advanced classes at this time for my degree.
I have been adapting to this ‘new normal’ by trying to make a schedule for each day, and making goals for myself. Whether they are academic goals, personal goals through physical or mental health, I have made sure that I am always working towards something. I have stayed connected with friends through facetime, google hangouts, zoom, and simple texts and calls. Snapchat also comes in handy now more than ever.
I am taking time for myself to de-stress and recharge during this pandemic. I have been making sure that at least once a day, or once every other day, I do something for myself that is completely for just me, that brings me happiness and peace of mind. This can be something simple as a walk, or watching Netflix, or playing with my dog, or cooking a meal, or having dessert or even just going to get a coffee every morning.
My advice to other current and former foster youth during this pandemic and time of social distancing is to stay connected with people that are important to you. Whether that is via text, email, phone call or video call. Stay connected. And stay active, whether it is going on a walk, cleaning, at-home workouts, locomotive activities can get our endorphins producing more which leads to a sense of happiness and peace. If possible, try to enjoy some sunshine as days get warmer and longer. Vitamin D is great for the mood. And lastly — set goals. Even if they are small, make them personal and work towards them during this time. This is a great time for everyone to work and focus on themselves more so that we can all come out of this as the best version of ourselves.
One way I’m staying connected is through the Voices of the Commonwealth (VOC) council that I am privileged to be a part of. The council does a great job of keeping in touch and providing a sense of community during these times.
Every Friday at 3 PM central/4 PM eastern time, we conduct a video meeting via Google Hangouts (more information below), where we can check in with each other and discuss any updates and concerns around the COVID-19 crisis. We have also moved to discuss new topics such as anxiety, mindfulness and physical well-being.
As the co-chairman, I would like to invite staff from independent living agencies, other current and former foster youth across the state of Kentucky, legislators, and other members of the community to join our weekly meetings to gain support and show support to each other during this time.
Every one of us is affected differently by this crisis and we all have a unique story and perspective to share. We’re all in this together.
Voices of the Commonwealth is comprised of Kentucky foster care youth and alumni aged 16-23 and is instrumental in communicating to foster/adoptive parents, out-of-home care staff, and community partners the issues and needs of youth in care and those who have aged out of the system. Youth who are transitioning out (aging out) of or formerly in foster care can find tools and resources via the Cabinet for Health and Family Services KY RISE portal.