Oregon Foster Youth Connection is a program of Our Children Oregon built to empower current and former foster youth to share their voices and be heard in key decisions affecting children and foster youth. OFYC looks forward to improving the foster care system through advocacy, activism, and leadership while ensuring that all children and youth in the foster care system, from the youngest to those aging-out, are well cared for and empowered to succeed
Throughout May, Our Children Oregon has shared resources and programs to highlight Foster Care Awareness Month, and we also wish to share the amazing work OFYC members have done and continue to do throughout the current legislative session. For the remainder of the month, we will share the thoughts and perspectives of current and former foster youth achievements, along with the importance of peer connections to build a sense of community empowerment.
Continuing the Foster Care Awareness Month blog series, Hanna L. of Oregon Foster Youth Connection (OFYC) shares her perspectives within foster care and as an active OFYC member in her own words below.
Hanna Love is a former foster youth and a member of OFYC. This is her third time being involved within the legislative session, and she’s learned a lot throughout her membership. She reflected, “It can be mentally straining and stressful to pass a bill. So much time, effort and energy is needed to pass a bill and it can be heartbreaking when it doesn’t pass.” If she could change the process, Hanna said she would support ways to make it less complicated and more efficient for bills to move through the legislation.
Hanna mentioned she was unaware that political parties could walk out of session. She alluded to last year’s infamous Legislative Session, during which Republican lawmakers decided to walk out of certain hearings, as a result bills could not be passed. Hanna expressed that although the legislative process has setbacks, such as the walk-outs and not prioritizing foster youth as much as possible, getting to know legislators on a personal level has been a great way to see them as regular people.
During the current session, Hanna hopes for wins for both OFYC bills. Although she has aged out of foster care, she is excited to see how HB 2340: Expanding ILP services for transition-aged foster youth can impact youth who are still struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would mean a great deal to her knowing that foster youth are receiving more accessible support than what she had received as a transitioning foster youth.
Additionally, the passing of HB 2505: Eliminating implicit bias in Child Welfare Response would eliminate biases for marginalized foster youth and create a system judicially fair for all youth. She shared, “For me, this bill would mean that I know foster youth would have a better experience than me. I’ve experienced age bias. I was in foster care as a teen, and many homes did not want to foster me because I was a teen.”
In regards to OFYC’s future, Hanna shared, “I would love to see OFYC be able to become its own nonprofit organization and support itself, and be completely youth-led and independent. As much as I love working with Our Children Oregon, I would love OFYC to have its own name and be its own organization and be able to expand its access.” She explained that it would be great if OFYC could branch out to other parts of Oregon and find ways to be more accessible, such as through providing foster youth with internet and technology resources.
Hanna is incredibly grateful to be a part of OFYC and has learned so much about herself and her peers. She explained, “OFYC has really helped me grow as a person, I have never been one that likes to speak in front of people, but now I’ve grown to be comfortable doing that – I’ve grown out of my comfort zone.” Hanna has been able to use her foster care experiences and her voice to create change and work towards a more equitable foster care system.
In the future, Hanna wishes to become an OFYC adult supporter and is excited to see where the organization will be in the next five to ten years. She encourages foster youth to join OFYC to learn about themselves and connect with other foster youth. For Hanna, being a former foster youth allowed her to be involved in OFYC, and without these experiences she’s unsure where she would be. In her words, “OFYC and the foster care system have completely changed my life.”