From Powerless to Powerful: How organizing impacted Dominique and her community
Posted on April 01, 2019
Dominique spent five years in foster care, bouncing from home to home. When she aged out of the child welfare system, she had been through twenty-two foster homes. She also lost contact with her brother, who she now hasn’t seen for more than a decade.
Dominique’s experience in care, and in particular losing connection with younger brother, should never have happened. Unfortunately, it is far too common. As she grew older, she was able to see how unjust this situation was, but felt powerless to do anything about it. What could one young person do against these huge bureaucracies? This feeling of helplessness started to change once Dominique got involved with a grassroots, foster youth empowerment program FYA helped start up called Project Foster Power.
Using FYA’s foster youth-led organizing model and our hands-on training and TA, Project Foster Power created incredible new opportunities for hundreds of foster youth across the Colorado Front Range region who, like Dominique, wanted and needed to channel their frustration and struggles towards positive change.
This experience has been truly transformational for Dominique. She’s growing as a leader and a change agent, developing skills like persuasive messaging, critical analysis of complex problems, and the ability to empower others, which she uses as an organizer and also in her daily life.
As Dominique tells it,
I gained an ability to use my voice, got more confidence, and learned to speak up for myself.
Being a part of a process of identifying issues, developing goals, and pushing for action helps Dominique when she sets her own goals and pursues them. She’s realizing that while it's still not easy to set goals, the more she works with Project Foster Power, the more it makes her want to set goals for herself personally.
FYA has worked closely with Dominique and Project Foster Power from the very beginning, first by introducing the youth organizing structure to this group, helping the emerging group get buy-in from important community decision makers, and providing intensive, intergenerational training in using our specific youth empowerment approach. Now a key leader in this group, Dominique just told us how they used some of our special outreach tools to grow their membership to close to 250 young members in less than two years.
Even more exciting, Dominique and her fellow foster youth organizers are leveraging their growing hopefulness, power and organizing prowess to drive policy change locally and at the state level. Their latest campaign focused on sibling rights for foster youth has particular relevance for Dominique, given how the system denied her right to stay connected to her brother.
As a result of the group’s organizing, State legislators agreed to consider a Sibling Rights bill during this spring’s legislative session. Project Foster Power is currently meeting with bill drafters to work on language, and with community stakeholders to build additional support for passage. Just recently they had their first victory -- the proposed bill secured a unanimous vote from the Colorado House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee. The group plans to host a Sibling Rights rally at the State Capitol steps in late April to highlight the issue and continue to put the pressure on legislators to get this bill passed. While Dominique understands that the legislation isn’t going to bring back the the many years she has been separated from her brother, her organizing has truly been healing for her, helping her cope, accept the loss and move forward in her life, knowing that others behind will not have to face the loss she did.
Foster Youth in Action works across the US and Canada to create opportunities for young people like Dominique to find their power and purpose through organizing, and to support groups led by young folks to make the changes that are so needed for youth in care.