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  • Magazine By and For Foster Kids

    by Sarah Elzas

    “This is a place away from your regular life,” said Rachel Blustain about Foster Care Youth United (FCYU), a magazine published by and for children in foster care, of which she is an editor. Getting away from things such as lonely group homes, aloof caretakers and disinterested teachers is what these students need and achieve through the writing process.

    “A lot of the students come in with something they want to write about—sexual abuse, self-mutilation,” said Kendra Hurley, Blustain’s editing partner. “We tell them they are the ones in control.” Students write poems and articles about “the system” and themselves, ranging from group home romances to sibling separation to leaving the foster care system—emotional and sometimes difficult issues.

    “Writing gives them a greater sense of control over their lives,” said Blustain. “I think there is an awful lot of control in getting their stories published.” The writers aged 14 to 21 come to the midtown office one to three afternoons per week. Many come to FCYU with journals and poetry notebooks already full of writing. In publishing their writing, kids can let go and share some of the problems with others who may have similar experiences.

    The articles in the bi-monthly magazine are written over time; like the stories they tell and the system they talk about, they wander a long and convoluted path towards completion. “It might take 13 drafts before you have a story,” explained Hurley.

    “We tell them ‘You are the expert on your life, on foster care,’” said Blustain. “The first or second story is the hardest,” explained Hurley. But through writing, kids can say things they may not be able to let out otherwise. “Writing helps me a lot. Sometimes when I come here [to FCYU], I’m overwhelmed, and writing is something that helps,” said Alene Taylor, 16, an FCYU writer.

    Everyone has a story worth telling, but not everyone has the writing skills. “We go by the assumption that if a kid has a story, the grammar is secondary,” said Hurley. “It’s a great experience to have a kid with a low skill level write a really good story,” said Blustain.

    Faced with the traumatic stories of these children’s lives, the editors themselves are sometimes overwhelmed. “You get used to the fact that their lives are always in crisis,” said Hurley. One of the difficulties they have is keeping writers coming. Kids disappear for many reasons, often because they change homes or schools. “I’ve lost almost all of my female writers to pregnancy,” said Hurley. Blustain pointed out that students often get other jobs because “we don’t pay them.”

    Blustain and Hurley recruit their writers from group homes and agencies where FCYU is distributed. Their overall goal is to get kids writing. “This is a place where they can try to make sense out of what has happened to them,” said Hurley. #

    To write for FCYU, call (212) 279-0708 x113 or 114.

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