Eckerd Foster Youth in New England Youth Coalition Advocates for Change

A foster youth in Eckerd’s Youth Development Program is seeking change in the foster care system through the New England Youth Coalition (NEYC).

Chris Turner became involved with the Eckerd Youth Development Program in March of 2012, a month after his mother passed away from cancer. Chris has been in and out of foster care for most of his life due to his mother’s illness. He has seen a number of foster homes and been to many different schools over the years.

“I struggled with my emotions and I never knew who would be there to support me through all the changes happening in my life,” Chris said. “With the help of Eckerd, I have found my passion and direction in life.”

Recognizing his determination, Chris was connected to the New England Youth Coalition where he has taken a leadership role working on the Normalcy Project – an initiative all New England states are getting behind to ensure children in foster care have the ability to take part in everyday activities, without the unnecessary involvement of case managers, provider agencies or the court system. The idea is to leave the decisions regarding activities in the hands of the caregivers.

“Normalcy is an important issue for youth in foster care. So often, they feel that they are under a microscope,” said Cindy Walcott Deputy Commissioner for Family Services for the Vermont Department for Children and Families. “Their access to normal adolescent experiences, such as extracurricular activities, hanging out with friends, getting a job, obtaining a driver’s license, can be restricted. They feel different from their peers at a time in their lives when fitting in is important.  Chris is making an important contribution by speaking out about this issue.”

Chris anticipates influencing change in the foster care system by sharing his experiences with youth all over New England. Chris will present the recommendations of NEYC to leadership from the Department for Children and Families/Family Service Division in hopes of educating policy makers and social workers about the trauma youth experience.

“I want to be the voice of change for others just like me,” Chris said.

Eckerd provides child and family supports in Rutland, Vermont with the goal of protecting abused children and providing family support services to prevent abuse. Services are provided to children who are in state custody or may become involved with the child welfare or juvenile justice system.  Eckerd’s work focuses on protecting the safety of the children, enhancing family functioning, building protective factors and social capital, preventing unnecessary placement outside the home, ensuring permanent placements for children , and offering restorative responses when relationships have been harmed or a youth has committed a crime  Eckerd works in partnership with others to build resilient communities.