ALEX CHIN [0:00] Hello listeners, and welcome back to a sound for you, a podcast dedicated to educating others on the foster system and encouraging them to help out.
Intro Tune [0:08]
ALEX CHIN [0:20] Once again it’s me, Alex, I’m the shadow brand ambassador for the Umlaut Foundation and if you’re not sure what Umlaut Foundation is, be sure to check out our first episode, we recorded here I give a brief rundown of who we are. In short, we are a non-profit that offers cost-free tutoring to foster youth but we have several other side endeavours such as this podcast!
So today, we’re doing something very exciting. We are doing something that we have wanted to do for so long. I'm joined by two fantastic guests Izzy and Taniel. And today we’re here to have a casual conversation with them. Taniel and Izzy are both ex-foster youth and with them we’ll be covering a variety of topics like mental health, personal experiences, and much more and before we jump straight into the interview why don’t we start off with some introductions. So Taniel, why don’t you start? Can you give us a quick status update of how you’re doing?
TANIEL [1:22] Hello Alex, thank you for having me. So as you said, my name is Taniel. I’m currently an OYC young leader with the Opportunity Youth Collaborative. I attend Los Angeles Trade Tech, my major is political science, and I was only in foster care from 16-17 and yea, go ahead Izzy.
ALEX CHIN [1:51] Izzy.
IZZY [1:52] My name is Izzy and I’m also an OYC young leader. I was in the system for 21 years and I am at the College of the Redwoods for psychology.
ALEX CHIN [2:04] Awesome, what made you want to go into psychology?
IZZY [2:07] I dealt with a lot of mental health, and I would like to help other people with mental health issues. I believe that the people that go through it should be the people that are kinda working in it.
ALEX CHIN [2:22] Awesome, now I know you guys mentioned OYC, and that is something we are definitely going to go over at the end, but first let’s get to know you guys a little better. Taneil, what made you want to go into political science, you said?
TANIEL [2:38] So yea, so political science is to foster my into being a lawyer. That career, that is what I want to do. I just like advocating and helping other people and being a part of physical change that you can see in front of your eyes, it’s a really big deal, it’s really fulfilling.
ALEX CHIN [3:03] Do you have any goals in your future related to that?
TANIEL [3:09] Yea my goals would be maybe to fork for DCFS one day, and definitely become a lawyer is my end goal.
ALEX CHIN [3:18] What about you Izzy? Where do you see yourself going with psychology?
IZZY [3:24] So, my minor I want to be psychology and I want to get my masters in social work. My goal is to build policy reform and to really sign bills, I want to be up there signing bills and changing things.
ALEX CHIN [3:41] Right, when either you guys are not working towards your goals what are some side interests you like to pursue. I personally started taking tennis lessons kind of recently. I’ve played on and off for a little bit but I wanted to get more serious. So either of you, what are some extracurriculars?
IZZY [4:03] I’ll go, I like to skateboard, I like to write and read and just hang out with people and get to know people, and be around cool people.
ALEX CHIN [4:15] Yep, I am with you on that. TAniel?
TANIEL [4:19] I like to sing, write a little bit, but singing mosty.
ALEX CHIN [4:25] Great well I think that about sums it up for intros. Now the listeners know a little bit about you guys, so we talked about how we’re doing right now, goals we have for the future; let's take it back a little. So I mentioned earlier you both used to be in the foster system or you had some experience with it. And a huge purpose obviously of this podcast is to educate our listeners about the experience. So can either of you, how has foster care impacted your life?
TANIEL [5:08] It’s impacted my life a great deal, it's changed my whole life basically but I would say that it helped me become in tuned with my mental health, one of the most positive things i got from the being in the system was just learning about my mental health and just being in tuned with it.
ALEX CHIN [5:29] Yeah mental health is another big thing we should talk about. Do you think foster care has changed your mental health for the better?
TANIEL [5:40] From being in it? Yes. Definitely you just learn a lot of new tools and techniques to cope with the different things you have been through even before foster care so it definitely helps.
ALEX CHIN [5:54] Right Izzy or Taniel, if you could go back to when you first started that journey, is there any piece of advice you would wish you had known before you entered the foster system. Anything you wish you could have told yourself?
IZZY [6:12] I’ll go, I think one thing I would tell myself is that even through the instability of not having permanent housing, not having permanent people in my life, that I’ll find stability at some point. It’s been 24 years, I’m now 24, I was in the system since I was 5 months old and I just got my own studio, I’ll be moving in next month, so I’ll finally have permanency.
ALEX CHIN [6:38] Yea that’s amazing, are there any stories or just any memories you have where you realized that there was a difference between you and other kids like at school that you noticed?
IZZY [6:53] Yea, I used to talk about social workers because my mom wasn’t in my life and so kids didn’t know I was a foster kid, or I didn't know if it was strange to talk about it. My sisters would tell me not to say anything and I kinda learned as I got older why. Sometimes people can be very judgemental about it. They can be like “oh you don’t have parents”. So yea.
ALEX CHIN [7:23] Yea, Taniel, what about you? I know you spent a little bit less time but are there any instances where you really felt or noticed a difference between you and other kids.
TANIEL [7:33] It was definitely different to assimilate being like a teenager and going to a highschool. Going in with kids who have been going to school with each other since the 9th grade and then you just kind of come in and see where you have to fit, that's a little bit of a struggle I would say. But positively on that note, at my school they had like a foster care group so once a week during one of my periods we would meet up and it would be like all the foster care kids so I thought that was cool because it was very inclusive and you just didn’t feel alone.
ALEX CHIN [8:13] Yeah definitely. What are some ways that you coped with being in foster care? I know Izzy you were there longer. Are there any ways you dealt with it?
IZZY [8:26] Yeah, it was really about coping skills. Like I said, music, reading, writing, skateboarding. I volunteered a lot at an after school program. It kept me out of trouble and it really kept me on my toes a little bit in a way because I was always with little kids and I wanted to be a role model to them. So that really helped me better my life and myself. Just having really good people, pointing out the good people in the system. I was in group homes and foster homes, so a lot of people come in and out so with group homes you really have to choose the good staff and the people who really care.
ALEX CHIN [9:12] Absolutely is there anyone you can recall who really helped you in foster care? Friend?
IZZY [9:21] Yeah.
ALEX CHIN [9:24] Well both of you, since you’ve had experience: Are there any or have you heard any you know, beliefs, or assumptions about the foster system that has not been true in your experience?
IZZY [9:37] Yeah, I think the stigma towards, I don’t even like to say it, but the fact that they say: “foster kids are bad kids.” We have different things that we have to deal with from mental health to not having permanency and stuff and sometimes schools or other environments, the kids respond differently than other people and they’re just labeled as bad kids. And, I think that’s a very bad stigma because not all foster youth are bad. We have some very amazing youth that have done amazing things and that’s not always in the media.
ALEX CHIN [10:22] Absolutely I agree. Taniel, how do you think the foster system can be improved or what’s something that you thought really worked while you were in foster care?
TANIEL [10:36] What worked for me were the meetings at school and also going to meetings that you go to with other foster kids where you learn life skills. That was working for me because that kind of kept me out of trouble. The same thing that Izzy said about the stigma and label that foster kids are bad kids I feel like that label is boldly thrown around. Things that don’t work in the foster system: I think that if you’re in the foster care system, you should not be homeless at all. I think that if you're in the foster system you should not be homeless regardless of your age. Regardless of bad label or no bad label. You should be in a home because that is their job. That is what I believe.
ALEX CHIN [11:39] Izzy, what about you? What’s something you think that can be improved about the foster system?
IZZY [11:44] One thing that can be improved. I feel like it’s the stability. For example I moved more than 16 times before I turned 21, I’ve heard people move less or more and I feel like the instability--I went to twelve different schools, so that’s one every year. It was hard to graduate, it was hard to meet new people, it was hard to have connections. And, what Taniel said about homelessness, I was homeless since I was moving around a lot. So, to go through that and not have connections has made it really hard to even build new connections, because I don’t know how long I’ll stay somewhere.
ALEX CHIN [12:29] Right yeah. Now let’s pivot, and let's circle back to OYC. You guys are both involved with OYC. Can you explain what that is? What is OYC?
IZZY [12:44] The Opportunity Youth Collaborative is what we work to advocate and work to go to meetings with DCFS [Department of Children and Family Services] and non-profits and other organizations to share our stories and better opportunities of education and employment within foster care.
ALEX CHIN [13:03] Do you guys enjoy working with OYC?
IZZY [13:06] Yes.
ALEX CHIN [13:10] I hear you have a project that you’ve been working on, a placement project. Can you explain to me what that is?
IZZY [13:18] Yeah, so the placement project is actually where we have youth doing the survey where they will point out how many places they’ve lived in and through there we want to talk about how this causes financial instability, emotional instability, housing instability, just all the instability that happens through having you go through placement. What we’re going to end up doing with the survey, is that we’re going to put them on actual maps that have little houses, we’re still working on it but we’re going to put it on paper and show how many times someone has moved.
ALEX CHIN [14:02] That’s great. How do you think this will help others? To connect? To feel seen?
IZZY [14:10] I kind of brought the idea to the team and my vision was to bring education and awareness to the foster care system and to even people in the public that have no idea about the foster system and to destigmatize the system and the kids in the system.
ALEX CHIN [14:36] Well thank you guys so much for this opportunity to sit down with you, that about wraps up all we had planned. Is there anything you guys would like to add before we end.
IZZY [14:49] I think I’m okay.
ALEX CHIN [14:52] Okay Taniel?
TANIEL [14:54] No, I think I’m good.
ALEX CHIN [14:57] Okay well that’s okay! Well thank you everyone for tuning in, it’s only our second episode and expect much more in the future. I had so much fun and I know I learned a lot. If you have any questions don’t be afraid to email us @firstname.lastname@example.org. Also remember to check out our website umlautfoundation.com, and take a peek at our socials, @umlautfoundation on both Linkedin and Instagram, we post a lotta great stuff on there, you don’t wanna miss it. Once again a big thank you to Izzy and Taniel for being great guests. We learned a lot today and have a wonderful rest of your day.
TANIEL [15:34] Thank you so much for having us, you as well.
IZZY [15:36] Yeah, thank you.
Closing Tune [15:39]