Young adults in Michigan's foster care system find hope among pandemic uncertainty

Rebound Detroit
Posted at 10:56 PM, Aug 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-25 22:56:25-04

Rebound Detroit tackles the uncertain road young adults aging out of the foster care system have to face. And now, with COVID-19, many have had their world's upended with no family to fall back on.

One local young woman beat the odds and is now fighting for others who may not know they have a voice in their future.

Today, 13,000 Michigan kids are in foster care, with nearly 300 waiting for adoption.

Brittney Barros is an advocate for foster youth. Sitting on her first board at the age of 14. With scholarships from the fostering futures program, Brittany just graduated from Eastern Michigan, but went through the fire to get there.

"I grew up homeless also not only did I grow up in foster care, I grew up in the deep depths of poverty," Barros said. "I grew up living in a car in a ditch and dirty motels."

She faced physical and emotional torture by one foster family, but was loved unconditionally by another.

"Experiences that have turned my trauma into triumph and something I look upon myself for resilience and tenacity to just be able to make through what I've been through growing up in foster care," Barros said.

She's now counted among the only two percent of foster children who graduate from college.

"If basic needs are not being met, then how are we expecting them to work a job and go to school full-time, and address some of those barriers," Barros said.

The young woman speaks to lawmakers in Michigan and Washington.

"We are in talks in child welfare about the housing crisis that is going on for youth care," she said.

Foster youth who have aged out the system are less likely to have stable housing, employment, or health care. And foster youth who are split up from their siblings suffer greatly.

Barros helped introduce a bill to keep siblings together and her efforts are paying off. So for foster youth who have learned life skills at Vista Maria, their futures are bright.

So here's the Rebound rundown if you want to help foster youth in Michigan:
- Donate to fostering futures scholarship program. It provides $3,000 college scholarships to current and former foster youth annually.
- Become a foster parent or provider of room and board for a foster youth.
- Or sign up to be a mentor through Vista Maria here.