By Dana Cole
My name is Dana Cole, and I am a new member with the Voices of Commonwealth. I chose this job because it is my passion to help advocate for other foster youths — former and current. I was in foster care for about 10 years, so I have been through and have seen some things throughout my journey.
I think being able to advocate and help others that may not have a voice is the greatest feeling. The amount of young youths that are still learning, or their time in care “has just begun” could be good or bad. Another reason why I chose this position is so that I could use my voice and experiences throughout foster care and make a change in the system, homes, etc. Ways that can make the child’s living situation a little better and good, rather than bad!
Being a new member of the VOC is also helping me learn/understand things that I wouldn’t have known a few years ago, so I’m grateful to have this opportunity. I cannot wait to grow more with my knowledge and be able to use it to advocate and spread information to every other foster youth that may need help. It is my pleasure and honor to have joined this job. Along with my other co-workers, I couldn’t get anymore blessed to be where I am at today, and hopefully I will be able to make that change, be that change, or help with the change. I look forward to growing as an individual, and expanding my knowledge.
Advocating for foster care and youth is also nice because it’s like we’re finally being heard. I know often times, say at age 11 or 12, you may not feel as though you’re being heard or getting the help you may need — well the VOC helps with that. It makes me happy knowing that whatever I had to go through, may be different than most 11-12 year-olds in care due to the evolution of policies, the system, rules, etc. And of course, the VOC also helps guide policy makers to that general direction in order to implement some of these policies, or whatever it may be.
While I am still a new member, I feel as though this job has opened my eyes and has allowed me to understand more about the system each and everyday. Advocating about my personal experiences are my favorite because each foster kid/youth may have endured different things while they were in care. Getting to see others’ stories is interesting because it allows me to compare/contrast my journey to their journeys. Everyone’s experience is different, and it’s important to understand that some foster youth may have had a more rough foster-life than myself or someone else. I also am not judgmental, and I am a great listener, so with these two aspects, I feel as though I can go a long way and be successful in the VOC.
To conclude, there’s more I could say about why I chose this job, or why I love to advocate, but the main goal is to help other foster youths, and try to give them a better foster care life or let them feel that normalcy that some may not have had.
I’ll wrap up by stating this quote: “You were born with the ability to change someone’s life, don’t ever waste it.” – Unknown
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. Learn more at www.kyvoc.com.
May is National Foster Care Month. 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.