Spotlight: An Interview with FYA Youth Leader Destiny on Becoming an Advocate

aponeurotica/ May 11, 2016/ Newsletter

Spotlight: An Interview with FYA Youth Leader Destiny on Becoming an Advocate

FYA shines a spotlight on one of our brightest youth voices: Destiny Landry from Springfield, Massachusetts. Destiny is a member of HEROES, a network partner expressly committed to empowering foster youth to become advocates, educators, and peer supporters.

Destiny with her FYA crew at L4C 2015 in DC

Destiny with her FYA crew at L4C 2015 in DC

Destiny has made a name for herself within the FYA ranks as an ardent proponent of peer-led programs for foster youth. Along with other representatives on the FYA Leaders United team, Destiny poured over the results of FYA’s foster care issues poll taken by over 600 current and former foster youth and allies last year. As the fifth most popular theme that came out of the survey, Destiny advocated for focusing on post-traumatic healing as our organization’s top national concern.

“Destiny shares an amazing story. She sat on the panel of foster youth who testified on Capitol Hill and shed light on the importance of investing in peer-led groups as a youth-proposed solution to trauma from foster care. She also really helped me, personally, appreciate how the act of service for others can be a form of healing for our youth,” commented FYA Executive Director Matt Rosen. During FYA’s Leaders for Change (L4C) conference in Washington, D.C. last October, reporter John Kelly quoted Destiny in an article published in the Chronicle of Social Change entitled “Foster Youth-Led Council to Feds: Help Us Help Ourselves.”

Destiny behind the camera for FYA at L4C 2015 in DC

Destiny behind the camera for FYA at L4C 2015 in DC

Given her emerging track record within our organization, we decided to feature a Q&A with Destiny:

How did you hear about HEROES?

I heard about it during one of my foster care reviews. There’s been a lot of them, but I’ve gone to maybe three reviews total.

What are “foster care reviews”?

In my state, all these people in my life come together in one room and talk about what’s happening with me and what’s going to happen. A social worker is there, sometimes the lawyers, an education specialist, or my foster parents.

What made you join HEROES?

I joined HEROES two years ago. When I first heard about HEROES, I thought it was just about people getting together to tell each other their stories. I wanted to avoid that. Then the second time I heard about it,

Destiny posing with Massachusetts State Representative Aaron Vega at a HEROES event Representative

Destiny posing with Massachusetts State Representative Aaron Vega at a HEROES event

I learned that you do different activities, like take part in performances. And that while you do share your story, it can be slowly.

Can you tell us a little bit about your story?

I entered foster care when I was 5. I’m 18, and I’m now a junior in high school. I’ve been in the home that I live in now since I was 14 or 15. I moved around so much that I missed a lot of school days, and they made me repeat the 3rd grade. My paperwork says that I lived in 27+ placements. I honestly can’t remember how many homes I’ve lived in because I was so young for a lot of them. I’d say six or seven of them were good homes, including the one I live in now.

What parts of your experience make you want to improve the foster care system?

I remember staying in these [temporary placement] programs. A foster parent would say, “Pack up, you’re going to a program” or sometimes they just say, “pack up.” Sometimes you come home and find your stuff packed up. Or one time they told me to take all my stuff with me to school. I went to one program, and they told me I was supposed to stay there for less than 45 days, but I ended up staying for five or six months. I went to programs a lot because they thought I was violent. They didn’t believe that I was just trying to protect myself. I’ve grown a lot.

How do you feel about participating in FYA?

I’ve been to two L4Cs, and I’m going this year too. I enjoy it. It makes me feel better about myself. It makes me feel like I can do more and help more foster youth. I’m not the only one that had a bad experience in foster care.

What motivated you to support Healing From Trauma as FYA’s first national campaign?

Destiny as a young child with her siblings

Destiny as a young child with her siblings

There’s always going to be mental and physical pain in the foster care world, and I want to make sure that other people don’t go through what I went through. Mental pain like people telling you that you’re worthless, you’re not going to college, you’

re going to jail or just always arguing with you, and just moving from place to place. On the physical pain side, it’s getting hurt, like getting hit. One time a foster mom told me to clean the living room and my foster sister lied to her and told her that she was the one that cleaned it. So my foster mom beat me with her belt.

What are you most proud of as a foster youth advocate?

There are two things I’m proud of as a foster youth advocate. First, my HEROES performance last year. I liked how so many audience members came up to me and told me how much they learned about foster care myths. The other one was last year’s L4C Conference. I loved how we worked together to do something. I love how it was structured so that at the end something big came out of it all.

What kind of career would you consider pursuing?

Long term, I’ve been thinking about becoming a nurse or working in criminal justice or fashion

Props to Destiny for her years of service and for becoming a beacon of inspiration to the FYA network! We also thank Chris Langelier, our staff contact at HEROES, as we know he worked hard behind the scenes to give youth leaders like Destiny a national platform to amplify her voice. FYA knows that stories like Destiny’s fuel the operational engines of our entire partner network.