Back to Table of Contents

Home | Media Kit | Articles | Subscribe | Staff | Survey | Advertisers Directory | Jobs for Educators

Please visit these websites:
  • Bank Street Bookstore
  • Karol Media - "I'm A" Poems Collection for the Classroom Kit
  • Reed Orenstein Rare Books
  • STORYTIME: Educational Toys, Books and More
  • Teachers College Bookstore
  • Jan Van Der Donk -- Rare Books, Inc.
  • Foster Kids Speak Out

    by Sarah Elzas

    Amid the bureaucracy of the foster care system, rarely does anyone hear from those for whom it exists: the kids. Voices of Youth (VOY) is a Manhattan-based organization that enables these young people to speak about their own experiences to caseworkers and other people involved in the foster care system. They raise awareness about the problems they see by telling their stories at conferences and workshops.

    “Speaking has helped me deal with my problems. It lets me know that there are others like me,” said Alene Taylor, 16. “I want to be a social worker,” she said, then corrected herself. “I want to be a good social worker.”

    Giselle John, 22, works part-time in the VOY office. “I’m just outspoken. You’ve got to start yelling from the moment you get in there,” she said about school. “Some people don’t even know they have the right to stay in their school.” Despite five moves, John managed to stay in the same high school.

    “The problem is trying to figure out how the system operates,” explained co-director Jennifer Nelson. “There is a way it’s supposed to work, but everyone has a different experience.” In her experience, few caseworkers act as advocates, even though kids trust them to make decisions in their interest.

    Caseworkers streamline students into getting a GED without offering them the alternative of attending high school. “Caseworkers don’t know the resources out there,” said co-director Gessy Nixon, a former foster child herself. “Let’s say a kid wants to cook, but they don’t know there are specialized high schools for that.” No one is there to push them, and as a result they are left to float through the school system. “They’re not monitoring academic growth at all,” said VOY speaker, Charles Walker, 26, of the system.

    Speaking is a way for these young people to connect with those making decisions in the system. These articulate young people refuse to be labeled success stories; instead, they say they are “struggling successfully.” “Every day is an accomplishment,” said Walker. John agreed, “If you are living and surviving, then you are successful.” #

    Back to Top
    Education Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001. Tel: (212) 481-5519 Fax: (212) 481-3919. Email:
    All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express consent of the publisher. © 2000.