Former foster children share their experiences in hope of changing the system

Mississippi Youth Voice reaches out to foster children who age out of the system

Former foster children share their experiences in hope of changing the system
Former foster children share their experiences in hope of changing the system (Source: WLBT)

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Imagine after turning 18, you are on your own to make decisions about housing, college, or how to survive on a day-to-day basis. That is what happens to many foster children in this state, but the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services is teaming up with a group to give former foster kids hope and a voice.

Twenty-two-year-old Scentrellis Dixon, 21-year-old Cassidy Barker and Andranella Lawyer who is 24 have all been in foster care.

Three members of Mississippi Youth Voice aged out of foster care and describe the hardships of not having a support system.
Three members of Mississippi Youth Voice aged out of foster care and describe the hardships of not having a support system. (Source: WLBT)

“I came into foster care at the age of sixteen because my mother, being a single mother, she had consecutive strokes back-to-back,” said Scentrellis Dixon

“It wasn’t until I was 17, and we had a traumatic event," said Cassidy Barker about entering foster care. "My mom’s a single mom and she had some drug and alcohol abuse issues and she actually ended up, our house burned down and we got taken into custody.”

Andranella Lawyer said, that she entered foster care when she was four years old, "and my mom, she had problems with drug abuse and basically just couldn’t, you know, afford to take care of my brother and sister.”

When they aged out of foster care at eighteen, they were forced into adulthood without resources or a support system.

“I stayed in college once I aged out of custody and the biggest challenge was during those holiday breaks, finding somewhere to go,” Dixon revealed.

Cassidy Barker said there were a lot of times where she was scared.

Lawyer says she was moved multiple times. “I was in sixteen different foster homes. Sixteen," she repeated. "And two shelters.”

Other foster children who have aged out of the system are encouraged to get involved with Mississippi Youth Voice.
Other foster children who have aged out of the system are encouraged to get involved with Mississippi Youth Voice. (Source: WLBT)

They are now working with Mississippi Youth Voice. The group has teamed up with the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services to help young adults who age out of foster care.

“Their goal is, How do we change the system? How do we speak with lawmakers? How do we speak with policy makers to do some of the work that it’s gonna take to really change outcomes on a big scale," said Claire Graves, Mississippi Site Director for Mississippi Youth Voice.

Mario Johnson, Director of Youth Transition Support Services for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services said, “A lot of times they leave care without any connection to anyone so they can connect with each other. This is a safe place for them to go and share their stories.”

CPS is teaming up with MS Youth Voice to help foster children who age out of the system.
CPS is teaming up with MS Youth Voice to help foster children who age out of the system. (Source: WLBT)

Mississippi Youth Voice is looking for new members. The deadline is September 30th.

Cassidy Barker said that “if you have a heart for this, we have a place for you to help.”

There are over 1,700 children in foster care in Mississippi who are 14 or older. More than 171,000 in the nation.

If you would like more information on Mississippi Youth Voice and how you can get involved, click here or go to msyouthvoice.org.

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