After I graduated from college, I spent a lot of time looking for a job before I decided to apply to AmeriCorps. I've always been interested in working with my community and especially with children, so I was excited when I happened upon this position at DCFYI. While I had no experience with foster care and little knowledge of adoption, I was excited to have the chance to learn more about it. Serving as the outreach and communications VISTA with DCFYI for the last year has been not only rewarding and amazing but an enlightening experience.
After a few weeks and a couple of events, I started to learn more about the foster care system and kids in foster care, not just from all of the statistics and data but from the teens in our program themselves. DCFYI gave me first-hand experience watching these teens and young adults grow and has shown me how much of an impact adult support can have on youth. I've watched some of the teens overcome homelessness, find employment, and go back to school. Many of the youth involved in DCFYI have had little to no other caring adult figures in their lives. The volunteers and mentors that work with DCFYI are vital to the success of these kids, and I've seen the difference that having an adult there to guide can have on a child in foster care. Sometimes you don't even realize that things need to be taught, like how to buy groceries, how to do laundry, or when you need to go to the doctor. Adults we know while growing up are responsible for us learning how to do these things, and without them, you wouldn't realize what you didn't know. Thinking about myself at the same age as the teens, and even now, I don't know how I would have been successful if not for adults I know and my family helping guide me or helping me when I was struggling.
One of my favorite memories is our fall festival in 2017. I went to pick up one of the older teens to bring him to the event, and with a little convincing, I let him drive me there so he could add more hours towards getting his license. Spending the day watching the teens and adults carve pumpkins, laugh, and bowl together was a lot of fun (and the candy corn shaped rice crispy treats I made were a hit). Another one of my favorite memories was at one of the first events I went to, one of the kids said I was pretty cool for an adult while we were getting food.
While my official service with AmeriCorps and DCFYI is ending, I still plan on coming to as many events as possible and continuing to connect with the teens in the program. After spending a year with DCFYI, the teens, volunteers, mentors, and staff have become an extension of my own family, and I can't imagine my life without them. Even though I will be spending a few months this summer working in Colter Bay, Wyoming at Grand Teton National Park, I plan on keeping myself up to date on all things DCFYI - and sending postcards!