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Two former Fresno foster youth selected to attend 2012 International Summit of Youth in Care
Young leaders lend personal perspectives to shape future policies for youth care programs
Taking place in Washington D.C. June 26 – 29, the summit will bring together a group of 30 young adult leaders from 16 different countries to meet with 30 experienced adult youth care professionals. Together, they will engage in a meaningful dialog about ways to raise awareness and bring about sustainable change to youth care attitudes, methodologies and programming.
The 30 summit delegates all share the common experience of having lived in nontraditional residential settings and having faced huge personal challenges while growing up. Some were placed in foster care, others were homeless, some were institutionalized while others ended up in gangs or in jail. Collectively, they represent 374 years spent in alternative care. All exhibited uncommon courage, overcame great personal hardships and have emerged as respected young leaders in their colleges, communities and countries.
The panel of 30 industry experts from around the world includes Dr. Maria Herczog, United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Kathleen Strottman, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), co-author of the California Fostering Connections to Success Act (AB 12), which helps young adults make an easier transition to independent living and helps them avoid the abrupt release from foster placement that often happens at age 18.
Richard Lazaro Alonso lived in 12 different foster homes while growing up. Upon emancipating from foster care at age 18, Richard was instantly homeless and found himself sleeping in public parks. After one year of living on the streets, a social worker introduced him to Aspiranet’s Transitional Housing Program (THP) where he received help and counseling.
Today, Richard is a student at Cal State Fresno, President of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and works as an Aspiranet Life Coach helping other youth successfully navigate through the agency’s Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program. Richard was recently awarded Fresno State’s 2012 “Student Volunteer of the Year” award.
Steven Weatherbee, 24, reconnected with his biological father at age 18 as he aged out of the foster care system. What social workers thought would be a happy ending was what Steven describes as “the worst year of my life.” When Steven returned home one day and discovered that his father had abandoned the apartment they shared, he found himself homeless.
At age 22, Steven was introduced to Aspiranet’s THP and began the journey to reclaim his independence. Today, Steven is now enrolled at Fresno City College, serves on the Aspiranet Board of Directors, has volunteered for five mission trips to Mexico and Africa, and received a standing ovation when he spoke at the Stewards of Change 5th annual conference at Yale University in 2010.
“I hope that by lending my voice to the global conversation about how to better serve the needs of youth living in alternative care settings, I can help prevent any other young person from going through the pain and hardship I experienced,”
Richard and Steven are both featured in “Hear My Story,” an Aspiranet public service announcement featuring the personal stories of former foster children. The award-winning PSA, designed to encourage adults to consider fostering or adopting a child, highlights how each young man overcame great odds thanks, in part, to the help of Aspiranet.
For more information about the 2012 International Summit of Youth in Care, visit www.youthincaresummit.info
Aspiranet, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charity, supports foster children, siblings, families, and the community with 35 core programs offering specialized services through 45 satellite centers within California.
Founded 35 years ago as a six-bed group home for young boys in Moss Beach, Calif., Aspiranet is one of the most diverse nonprofit social service agencies in the state. With a statewide network of innovative services, Aspiranet has touched the lives of over 10,000 families and children since its founding.
Aspiranet’s vision of bringing families together and helping foster children, siblings, and parents thrive is realized through six areas of expertise – Family Services, Foster Care, Adoption, Education, Afterschool programs, and Community Partnerships. For more information, please visit www.aspiranet.org.