The In The System event was an experience tailored for a group of individuals to speak on their foster care experiences throughout their lifetime. The event was held Monday. It was also used to promote a new organization, yet to be named, whose goal is to help students previously in the system
“My God-given mission in life is to make a change in the foster care system,” Selena Austin, host of the event, said, “Far too often are these kids falling through the cracks in a system that is failing them. And, far too often is the system failing them by allowing them to be placed and adopted into abusive and neglectful situations. I have now heard at least three separate stories of individuals who were adopted into horrifically abusive homes. There have even been children killed. This event means the start of the rest of my life working through God and helping make a change.”
The event consisted of Austin speaking of her experience of being in foster care, as well as Walter De La Cruz, the on-campus liaison for foster and adopted students.
“All state institutions are required to have a liaison on campus to assist and serve former foster and adopted [students],” De La Cruz said. “My experiences working with these students has been mostly positive. I have worked in social work, and this experience awoke the need for me to be of further service to all in need. Hearing these individuals speak about their lives is very informative, and this allows me to better understand and to better assist them.”
According to Austin, the purpose of the event was to educate students on both the foster system and on the stereotypes of CPS.
“The program is to also educate students on what the school and CPS has to offer foster/ adopted students and how the student body themselves can become an ally to those in the foster system,” Austin said. “The event was thought of during a training session my first week as a CA. We were talking about programing, and God put the thought into my head to work on a project along the lines of the foster system. It is something I am truly passionate about and wanted to bring awareness to.”
Along with Austin, De La Cruz wanted to create awareness around campus in regard to students who have gone through foster care.
“I want to inform everyone that we have a growing network of advocates and students that are available to all students who need them,” De La Cruz said. “There is a lack of awareness of these populations on campus and in society as a whole. We want people to realize our presence, to let them know they are not alone. We also want people who are interested in helping these types of students that their efforts and time will go to a good cause. The greatest asset I have discovered are the students who are passionate about helping others. In addition to students, there are numerous individuals and departments across campus who have assisted and expressed interest in advocating for these populations. We will use social media, events on campus and in the community to build a local network and expand. I also reach out to local school districts, so that they know that SFA has individuals here ready to help incoming foster/adopted youth in any way possible.”
Austin also said she wants to break the stigma around being adopted and wants to change things for foster kids in the future.
“Hardly anyone talks about the foster system and being adopted,” Austin said. “I used to think telling people I myself am adopted was taboo. Through my whole life, as well as my adult life, I have gone through so much, [a lot] of which were the consequence of my time spent in the system. What I am hoping is to make a change to avoid situations similar to what not only I, but so many countless others have had to live through and continue to live through today.”
To learn more about this organization, contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org