The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Introduction: The Search for Home
Represent staff
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The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned. —Maya Angelou

Youth in foster care aren’t being paranoid when they worry about ending up on the streets. In New York City, about one-quarter of youth who have aged out land in a homeless shelter within three years of leaving care. Nationally, between 11% and 37% of former foster youth become homeless after they age out.

Several stories in this issue capture the frustration and fear of turning 21 with little control over what happens next. Sharlene Tolbert and A. Ferreira do everything in their power to take care of their housing and other needs before they age out, but bureaucratic glitches and oversights throw them off course. Marlo Scott and Vanessa describe how homelessness disrupts everything else—school, work, connections with others, and even the will to keep going.

image by YC-Art Dept

Being proactive and persistent can help: The above writers all show incredible resourcefulness and courage in the face of terrible upheavals. But the system needs to be better. The Adolescent Representation Clinic, part of Morningside Heights Legal Services at Columbia Law School, has released a report full of simple policy suggestions for New York City government agencies that could make it easier for foster youth to find stable housing when they age out. We summarize the report in this issue.

Sometimes, however, getting the apartment or room or house doesn’t lead you straight to happily ever after. Many former foster youth experience loneliness and confusion when they first live on their own. J.G., Marlo Scott, and Zaniyah Solis all have trouble feeling content in their apartments after living so many places where they didn’t feel accepted. Two therapists who work with foster youth give advice on taking care of yourself if you’ve never had anyone take care of you.

Other stories in the issue explore the connections that can make a foster care placement feel like home, and non-blood relations feel like family. We hope this issue helps our readers—in ways both practical and emotional—to find home.

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