Many siblings enter the child welfare system and are separated. Some are sent one town over, while others are sent to the other side of the state. What many don’t realize is that when siblings are separated, the government sometimes doesn’t share contact information, or even schedule visits or reunification. The child involved isn’t told how to find their sibling once they turn 18, and they aren’t told where their sibling was moved to.

Imagine that. Imagine being separated from your siblings when you’re only nine years old and facing the possibility that you will never see or hear from them ever again.

At a very young age, my mother passed away, leaving the responsibility of raising me and four of my siblings solely on my father. 
We couldn’t imagine or fathom being separated from each other. With the help of my oldest sister, our father took full responsibility for caring for us.

Because of this, I was able to excel in middle and high school. After graduation, I was awarded both academic and athletic scholarships to pay for my attendance at the community college in my hometown.

But then, my father passed away. Luckily, my oldest sister was able to become my guardian and took on the responsibility of caring for me. I was fortunate enough to have my immediate and extended family to support me. Because of them, I never legally entered the foster care system.

Opposite of most, I use the death of my parents as a strength. A strength to get by, a strength to survive, a strength to live, but more importantly, a strength to succeed. Their deaths have been the fuel used to become who I am today.

I have successfully earned my undergraduate degree, my masters in social work degree and I am now a Licensed Master Social Worker at the Tuscaloosa Children's Center, Inc., where I serve as the Child and Family Advocate & Forensic Interviewer. Working in the field of human resources has afforded me a hands-on experience to see what should not happen and what should happen when a child enters the system of care.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to again be submerged in the experiences of our country’s foster youth when I was accepted as one of more than 100 participants that the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI) brought to Washington, D.C. to shadow their member of Congress.

No one knows the struggles of children at risk of entering the child welfare system than those at risk of entering the child welfare system. Shadow day gave me the opportunity to discuss issues, policy and ideas within the child welfare system in the state of Alabama with Congresswoman Terri Sewell, who represents the 7th congressional district in Alabama.

Shadowing Congresswoman Sewell gave me the opportunity to see that being present and having a voice is more powerful than anything. Without this opportunity from NFYI, being a voice for youth in the child welfare system would be impossible.

The program was more than just that visit, it was a creation of a movement. We spent almost a week dialoguing with congressmen/women about issues that are important to us, networking with each other and learning about how some of the new legislation will affect our individual states.

I can’t wait to use this unforgettable experience to organize in my hometown and continue to work with, and for, our nation’s foster youth.