A Letter to Youth Villages
Dear Youth Villages,
My name is Amber, and I am 23 years old. I lost my dad at a very young age and grew up with a mother who battled addiction and untreated trauma that led to many mental health problems leaving her incapable of caring for herself or for me.
I was placed in foster care when I was 11 years old and moved around frequently. Any possible forever home returned me like I was a broken product they got from the store. As I grew older and got harder to place, I eventually ended up in a residential facility until I aged out of foster care at age 18. During my time in that residential facility, I lived with 13 other girls and was watched by staff constantly. I needed permission to use the bathroom and had scheduled, structured time outside. My phone calls were monitored and timed, and I had limited access to the internet. I had no control over my own life or choices but I didn’t know anything different.
When I finally aged out, I went to college, and no one was watching. There were no set schedules, no unwanted sets of eyes and no one I needed permission from. For the first time in my entire life, I could decide for myself. But, I decided wrong.
I was unprepared for adulthood due to the lack of normalcy, independence and consistency in my life. While academically I was capable of going to college, I struggled to maintain balance between friends and responsibilities. I leaned on friends for the emotional support and guidance most young people get from their families. I over attached myself to them because I didn’t have anyone else. When all they wanted to do was drink and go to parties, that’s what I did. And in just two months, I partied and drank enough to fail all of my classes and was asked to leave school.
When I left college, I strongly believed I would never go back or succeed in life. I knew I would be stuck in a cycle of chaos and failure. I accepted this as my new life but then I sunk even lower.
I ended up homeless, living out of my car. I wanted better for myself, but I didn’t know how to get there. I reached out to my aftercare worker, and she gave me information about Youth Villages, an organization I had never heard of but that promised to help me with housing, food security, aftercare programs and college scholarships. But most importantly, Youth Villages would give me the reassurance that I could be successful and happy, regardless of my past or my mistakes.
With my LifeSet specialist by my side, we worked on finding me a job and my own apartment. LifeSet eased me into the waters of being responsible for my independence and being able to recover from minor setbacks and maintain my stability. It guided me to consistency with normalcy and independence by exploring natural supports and resources in my community. LifeSet was there for me when no one and nothing else was.
It helped me hold myself accountable for my actions and goals and helped me manage things like applying for college, scholarships and job applications. I got a job at the same residential facility where I once lived. I work with youth facing the same challenges I once did and help them find their voice so they can advocate for themselves.
Now, I am back in college and am working on my Social Services degree. LifeSet helped me do that. LifeSet was there for me when I was lost and unsure of where to turn. I am in my third semester of college and hope that one day, I can make the same impact in others’ lives.
Thank you, Youth Villages. You helped me gain consistency in my life. I found stability and hope for my future, and I hope every young person involved in the child welfare system will have access to high-quality services and programs like LifeSet because it is life changing.