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Katie Gordon: When there's no one to turn to

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Katie Gordon

Gordon

I spent seven years in foster care here in Wisconsin, and this COVID-19 epidemic is hitting me and other youth from foster care really hard.

While I was able to reunify with my mother during my last year of foster care, leaving care in this way has meant I am not eligible for many services that help young people who have left foster care during their transition to adulthood.

I’m ineligible for government assistance provided to foster youth in the state of Wisconsin. I do not qualify for health care until 26 or Wisconsin’s ETV program that provides up to $5,000 per school year.

And, unfortunately, due to my mother’s past addiction and my father’s incarceration, I do not have the familial support that parents would provide.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, I was getting by pretty well.

I am in my final semester of college studying Human Development and Family Studies at The University of Wisconsin-Stout and I will be starting graduate school in the fall studying Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

I currently work at a residential treatment facility for adults diagnosed with substance-use disorder and/or mental-health diagnosis’ I believe I have made a lot of progress on my journey to becoming an adult.

But now, everything seems to be falling apart. I do not feel stable and wish I had better information regarding what is happening.

I have support from friends, coworkers and my chosen family, but it seems like the people I would normally turn to for support are also struggling. Things seem to be changing very quickly, and it’s hard to keep up and understand what’s going on.

Because of COVID-19, my university moved all our classes online, which has been a struggle for me. My roommates moved back home to their families, so I am quickly becoming lonely which is affecting my mental health negatively.

This has also reminded me of foster care due to my roommates leaving with little time to say goodbyes.

In addition, my graduation ceremony has been cancelled. I am of the 3% of foster youth to graduate college and although I am proud of myself for getting a degree, it has been difficult for me to process not having the closure a commencement provides.

It is a worry of mine that my place of employment could shut down and I will lose my job.

I have worked to save as much money as possible, which means taking money from things that would normally improve my mood and mental health.

Although there is a pandemic occurring in our world; my phone bill, car insurance, water and heat, rent and groceries do not stop being a necessity. Things are really tight.

I have had a recurring feeling of being in foster care again. My life is being controlled by someone else, which creates a constant feeling of instability for me. I have been extremely anxious most days and have struggled with sleeping. Some days I feel defeated.

Young people in and from foster care like me need extra support right now.

We do not have the privilege of a biological family to help us through these dark days. I know this is a very difficult time for everyone in the world. It is crucial to remember the additional layer of trauma this has caused young people in care and former foster youth.

While Congress can’t replace the family we don’t have, they do have the power to help.

Our leaders should increase resources to young people as they transition from foster care, such as providing more housing, educational support and vocational training.

We need emergency money for basic needs right now. Specifically, Congress should increase the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program funding, which provides flexible resources states can use to meet youth needs, including things like room and board, educational support and job training.

Young people need a way to access the Chafee supports, such as waivers of work and education requirements during this time.

Also, it would make a huge difference if Congress would encourage states to let young people who have left foster care, re-enroll in care so they can access supports.

When I was in care, I had a network of people I could turn to for help. I sure could use a network now.

Katie Gordon, 22, resides in Menomonie.

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