IL (January 17, 2004) - The Illinois Department of Children and Family
Services (IDCFS) and Uhlich Children's Advantage Network (UCAN) today
host the True Voices of Foster Care and Adoption, a panel discussion led
by youth who have been or are currently residing in the state foster care
system. Fred Long, a 24-year-old former ward of the state will co-moderate
the event, along with DCFS Deputy Director of Field Operations Arthur
Bishop who will introduce the panelist.
in the DCFS system are not often given the opportunity to publicly share
their experiences using their own voices," said DCFS Director Bryan
Samuels. "This discussion will provide a forum for them to speak
and be heard."
will explore topics such as misconceptions of foster care, views on relationships
with family of orgin and sibling rights, and the true feelings that youth
in care have about the foster care system. High school and college youth,
legislators and child welfare experts throughout Illinois are invited
like these give our young people the chance to truly express their feelings
and opinions," said Tom Vanden Berk, president and executive director
of UCAN. "These events also give us adults a chance to listen, learn
and, most important, act on what we hear."
by Jewel-Osco, the event will take place on Saturday, January 17th at
11:00 AM at the Uhlich Community Programs Center, 217 N. Jefferson Street.
Youth panelist include:
Austin, age 18, a ward of the state, is the President of the Statewide
Youth Advisory Board and Cook-South Regional Youth Advisory Board to the
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. In this role, he
serves as an advocate and advises the Department on solutions to issues
such as educational support and legislative matters that affect youth
in care. Bryan also serves as Youth Advisor for the Center for Child Welfare
and Education, where he advises on ways to better the educational services
for all youth in care. A graduate of Morgan Park High School, Bryan is
a student at Northern Illinois University majoring in psychology and political
Dominguez, age 16, is an adopted youth who became a ward of the state
when her mother abandoned her and her sister in an apartment. A hotline
call resulted in their being taken into custody and placed in emergency
foster care. After being moved around a number of foster placements, and
wanting to have a permanent home, Anna and her sister were adopted by
her foster parents. Today, having a lot of structure in a home filled
with unconditional love, Anna is a three-sport athlete (varsity squad
for both soccer and swimming), and an accomplished artist who studies
and enjoys playing the piano. She is part of the family who believes in
"giving back" and will pursue a career as a teacher with goal
of becoming a District Superintendent. Anna is a junior honor student
at Reavis High School in suburban Burbank. One of seven adopted children,
she was recently named statewide Hispanic Youth of the Year at the DCFS
Conference in November.
Harris, age 22, became a ward of the state when her father passed away
and her mother's drug addiction left her unable to care for Tytannie and
her four siblings. Tytannie's aunt initially took on the responsibility
of caring for Tytannie's and her two brothers and two sisters. However,
her aunt had custody for only a short period of time before Tytannie was
placed into Park Ridge Youth Campus for young neglected kids. While there,
Tytannie won the Presidents Award for having an impact on youth in the
program. She was placed into an Independent Living Arrangement (ILA) at
age 18. Tytannie attended the University of Illinois/Chicago for two years
before transferring to Northeastern University this summer. She majors
in Special Education/Psychology and plans a career as a child therapist.
Long, age 24, became a ward of the state at age 10 due to his parent's
drug use and inability to care for him. His maternal grandmother raised
him and his eight siblings until he turned 18. It was difficult to keep
them together as a family and Frederick credits his grandmother for showing
him stability and instilling in him a desire to help others. At age 18,
Frederick entered Uhlich's Independent Living (ILA) Program. He is currently
enrolled in Harold Washington College and works in the Development/Fundraising
department at Uhlich. He also participates in Uhlich's STARS program,
where former clients have the opportunity to work within the organization.
Through the STARS program, Frederick is also an active member of the Uhlich
Presidential Youth Advisory Board (P.Y.A.B.).
Simelton, age 21, is a ward of the state who currently participates in
the DCFS Youth in College program. Michael resides in Cairo, Illinois
and has managed to make great strides. Michael currently attends Southeast
Missouri State University (SEMO) in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and is slated
to graduate in May 2005 with a bachelor's degree in Computer Systems and
Technology. Michael has been accepted into the ambassador honors program
at SEMO and was elected by the University Board of Directors to serve
as an off-campus student senator. In addition, he is a member of the DCFS
Southern Region Youth Advisory Board.
Spencer, age 20, became a ward of the state at age seven due to problems
with his siblings and parents. In 1990, Victor, his brother, and two sisters
were placed in foster care and by 1994, Victor was placed in the first
of three group homes that he would soon transfer in-and-out of. At age
17, Victor was transitioned to an Independent Living Arrangement (ILA)
program. Upon his entrance into the ILA program, he felt that no one understood
his struggles. As he gradually built relationships with positive peers
and ILA staff members, Victor became open-minded about his future. He
is currently majoring in English literature at Harold Washington College.
This past summer, Victor worked as an intern at the Cook County Assessors
Office and plans to become a successful writer.
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Illinois Department of Children and Family Services