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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Teacher Lesson Return to "When a Staff You Love Leaves"
When a Staff You Love Leaves
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Ask For What You Want

Freewrite and Discussion: 15 minutes
Write the following prompt on the board or chart paper:

“Write about a time when an adult in the system—caseworker, therapist, lawyer, etc.—surprised you by doing something unexpected that helped you. Describe what the person did for you in a paragraph or two and why it was so meaningful.”

Remind teens that they don’t need to worry about spelling or grammar. After people finish writing, invite them to share if they’d like. Summarize the main points from the teens’ stories (e.g., “He stayed after his workday ended to play basketball with me,” or, “She signed me up for a dance class when I told her I liked to dance,”) and write those points on the board or chart paper.

Read the Story: 10 minutes
As a group, read aloud “When a Staff You Love Leaves,” by Zariah Oliveras (p. 23), taking turns. Let teens pass if they don’t want to read.

Discussion: 15 minutes
Ask the group to identify things that Awilda, Zariah’s worker, did that helped Zariah. [Awilda arranged activities for the girls and offered to take them; she warned Zariah about talking too much in front of other staff; she shared her own experience and related advice; she tried to get Zariah into her own old foster home; she kept in touch after she quit the job at the group home.] Add their responses to the list you’ve started on the board or easel paper.

As a group, make the list into general guidelines for foster care staff, for example, “Listen nonjudgmentally” or “Share your own teenage experience if it’s relatable” or “Look out for programs that fit with our interests.”

Finally, invite them to share if they had Zariah’s experience of a beloved staff leaving abruptly. How would they have liked their staff to break the news of their leaving to them? Add any concrete suggestions for how staff should handle telling youth that they’re quitting to the list.

Tell the group that you are going to type up the list and make copies to distribute next time they’re back. Encourage them to share it with someone at their agencies and to report back how it was received. Remind them that they are experts in foster care and that adults can learn from them.
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