By: Glenda Wright, J.D.

What does identity mean, and what impact does identity have on us? This question is something I have been exploring over the last year while working on the Truth & Reconciliation project of the Thriving Families, Safer Children Kentucky initiative.  

My name is Glenda Wright, and I am a Child Welfare Consultant who was fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to join this project as one of four youth experts who were charged with telling their truth regarding the Kentucky foster care system. When I was asked to join this project, I already had a lot on my plate. However, after hearing what this project was all about, there was no way I could say no. 

The project’s main goal was to have lived experts tell their testimonies through speech and artwork. These testimonies aimed to illuminate the realities of youth who go through foster care. Then through the sharing of the testimonies, community members would attend one of two truth-telling circles where they would witness these truths. Recommendations and solutions for change come from the testimonies shared.  

Oprah Winfrey said it best, “what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we have.” In that power of sharing my truth, I was hopeful that once the community could hear from the voices impacted by the foster care system, those voices that are also a part of their community, they would feel charged to get involved and act now. 

I have worked professionally as a child welfare advocate for ten years. In those ten years, I have shared my story more times than I can count. The longer I work in this space, the more worn down I start to get. Sometimes it can begin to feel like you have been trying to move mountains. You are exhausted, you are sad, and you are trying your best not to feel defeated as things still have not changed the way you had hoped after all the efforts you have put in. However, that sentiment was completely different when it came to this project. 

Original artwork by Glenda

While working on this project, I was able to dive deep into my experience with the foster care system. The longer I worked on the project, the more therapeutic it felt. I felt so many emotions by the end of the second day of sharing my story at our Truth Telling Circle (“TTC”).

I felt encouraged by how much the community valued my words. I felt motivated by the larger-than-life list of recommendations from what the lived experts shared. I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders because I could finally testify and tell my truth after decades of pain, hurt, and anger. Not only telling my truth but doing it in a way where everyone in that room had shown up as a witness to hear me speak and not show up to disregard my truth, downplay it, or argue against it. The way people showed up mattered, and it helped me gain some substantial leaps on my life path of healing. 

Being authentically heard and listened to matters. However, this project goes a step further by coming up with recommendations that allow us to work with the community to help implement changes that can strengthen our community and its members. The change that comes from my sharing my truth matters most to me as one of the youths who testified in this project. 

Greta Thunburg once said, “once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.” Action is what matters most. I am always happy to tell my story; even shout it from the rooftop, but with the caveat that my sharing my story helps bring about action. 

Over the next several months, I will be doing blog posts that will dive deeper into my top 10 picks for recommended changes that came from the work we did in the project’s first year with our two TTCs. This blog will be known as #ThroughMyEyes. I hope you all follow along to understand better how the community can help support this work and build their knowledge and understanding of the impact of foster care on the youth that also makes up their community. 

Stay tuned for the next post of  #ThroughMyEyes, Putting the Power and Tools in the Right Hands.