It’s very rare that you find young people who strive to make such a difference in the world knowing that the rewards are minimal. With my next Hope Story, I had the opportunity to learn more about this young woman’s journey through foster care and how that’s made her into the young woman she is today. Motivated by her past, Selena is a 22 year old with a heart of gold and a beautiful perspective on life.Selena is also the creator of an online blog called "Love, Selena".
Let me start off by thanking Selena for taking the opportunity to share her Hope Story. I hope and pray that this would provide life and perspective for someone out there.
AFH: How would you describe your experience in foster care?
Selena: If I could describe my foster care experience, it would be described as a blessing in disguise. For many years, I could only see how much I didn’t want to be in foster care. I later realized that if not for foster care I would be in a much worse place. It has been a blessing to have been able to receive so much support and resources that led me to become the individual I am today.
AFH: What age did you enter foster care and why?
Selena: After losing my mom at the age of 6, we were left in the care of my aunt and my step uncle. Struggling with alcoholism & anger my father was unable to care for my four siblings and I. My sister had reported neglect, physical and sexual abuse that occurred for a year and a half in the home of my aunt and uncle until we were removed from their care and separated into different foster homes.
AFH: What were some of your biggest challenges as a foster kid?
Selena: One of my biggest challenges as a foster kid was healing from trauma. I was abused physically and sexually prior to entering foster care. The result of which kept me from forming relationships and trusting anyone. Another thing I struggled with was the connection to my siblings. I had lost connection with 3 of my siblings for 10 years. Two of my brothers were adopted and had their last names changed and my sister could not be found. I wanted to be with my siblings for a long time but my social worker said it was impossible to keep 5 children together. Throughout the years, we managed to reunify but our relationships were never the same.
AFH: How did you eventually begin to heal and grow from those experiences?
Selena: I began to heal and grow when I discovered my voice and learned the power of sharing my story. I remember speaking to a group of children at an orphanage in Honduras while I was on a missions trip with my church in 2011. I shared my story of how I entered foster care. I shared that I can relate with so many of those children being fatherless and my mother passing at an early age. That was the moment that I found my calling and purpose. Deep down in my heart, I began to realize that my story wasn’t my own and every time I shared some part of me began to heal. There is healing and growth that comes every single time you decide to let go of what has been holding you down. Your past is one of them. Growth and Healing is my mission for a blog that I had started called Love, Selena. As I share some of my stories, my hope is that growth and healing may follow.
AFH: What advice would you give to kids navigating the foster care system today?
Selena: The advice I would give the children navigating the foster care system today, is to be informed and always ask questions. Many times you might feel like meeting with your social worker or other child welfare professional is a waste of time. But just know that they are your advocates that speak for you even when you can’t speak for yourself. Your voice matters and your story matters.
AFH: I know you are very active in advocacy for Foster kids. What sort of things are you doing to help aid this agenda of bringing change and awareness to this broken system?
Selena: I am 1 of 15 Youth Advisory Board Members for the Office of Children and Family Services, who were in foster care or are still in foster care. Through this opportunity, I have spoken at conferences and Summits alongside other board members, which allow professionals opportunities to listen to our experiences and together cultivate ideas to make larger impacts in their respective counties. At an event in Onondaga County, we spoke out about how child welfare professionals make decisions without listening to the youth directly that would be impacted, the Deputy Commissioner of Onondaga County sent out a letter to their foster youth giving them the opportunity to write back and establish a relationship with him. At a permanency summit we shared about what moving home to home looked like, which was in infamous trash bags. Westchester’s Department of Social Services decided to make a change and recently launched their “No Trash bag Campaign”. Youth in Westchester County will be provided with a duffle bag when moving from home to home. This board has been making a difference one county at a time! Some things that I am continuing to advocate for is the strengthening of relationships between the youth in foster care and the professionals in the field, re-unification with siblings by keeping that sibling relationship strong and providing permanency to the youth in care.
WOW! What a special story. Every time I am granted the opportunity to hear someone else’s story, I am deeply moved. It motivates me further to keep growing A Foster’s Hope. It motivates me to keep sharing my story and others. Again, Thank you again Selena for sharing your Hope Story. I hope that her story inspires you whether you are a foster kid/parent or just a friend of ours. You can find more of her stories at loveselena.online . You can make a difference as well. So many children need positive role models. They need someone to help mentor them to believe in them. That someone could be you. Feel free to reach out on social media or via email with any questions on how you could get involved today. Thanks for taking the time to read and do me a favor! Subscribe & Share! Love y’all.