I experienced foster care for about 9-10 years. I entered the system at the age of two, and exited the first time at the age of four. I do not remember much of my time in foster care at that age, but the second time I entered foster care, I was 12 years old. I remember much more, including my 20 plus placements because no one took the time to listen to me and understand what was going on within me. I am a youth advocate because I believe that people need to take the time to listen to the voices of young people in care because they know themselves better than others know them. I was never listened to by my caseworkers, placement staff or foster parents, and because of that, at the age of 14, I was deemed too unstable for the community. I know that if just one person had taken the time to understand me back then, I never would have gone through a lot of the trauma I did. Youth voices are the most important voice because we know what we want and need.

At the age of 15 years old I was finally able to stand my ground and made my treatment team listen to me. It was when my advocacy career started, everyone in the meeting was so shocked at what I did that they allowed me to speak. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say because I didn’t think they would listen. That meeting was my chance to speak my mind about my own treatment and advocate for myself. It gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts about myself and my treatment, instead of everyone else saying and deciding what was best for me. Everyone in the meeting was so surprised by the knowledge I had regarding my case and treatment that they finally listened. That was the first of many team meetings in which I was allowed to speak and share what should be done. My team started to listen to me, and I started to get better and really succeed in my life. This is exactly why we should have a voice in meetings and anything involving us. It makes a huge difference when you have the thoughts and ideas from the youth themselves.

During the earlier stages of my life, people around me did not listen to me, or let me advocate for myself. This caused me unnecessary trauma that led to spending most of my life broken and surrounded by darkness and chaos. I signed myself out of the foster care system because my needs were not being met, and I wasn’t being heard. I wasn’t going to let my voice be pushed aside again. Every foster youth has a valid voice and should be heard. I will continue to use my voice so others have the strength to stand up and use their voice to advocate for themselves and have a better outcome in life.

By Justyce Elizabeth Callisto, 22yo. Justyce is currently working on getting pans bachelor’s degree in psychology with a concentration in mental health counseling from SNHU. Once pan has gotten pans bachelor’s degree, Justyce plans on getting pans master’s degree in psychology, child and adolescent development. Some of pans hobbies include baseball, music in all aspects, juggling, photography, and volunteering. Justyce is a former foster child, and spent roughly eight or nine years in that system. Pan signed out after pans turned 18 and graduated high school. Justyce was 2 years old when pan entered the system pans first time, and was 12 the second time pan entered the system. The total number of moves pan had was roughly 23, that included foster homes, respite homes, residentials, group homes and even inpatient facilities. Justyce has three siblings who entered care with pans, but they did not stay together. Justyce does not have much of a relationship with any of them. 

One awesome fact about Justyce is pan taught panself how to juggle while in an in-patient treatment center at 13 years old. Pans overall career goals are to use pans skills and experience in the system to help foster youth who are at-risk understand that there are different ways to cope. Pan wants to show that there are different ways to communicate so they do not have to rewire their brain and try to become adults at the same time.