The Advocate: 1st Quarter 2022
Charell Star’s Visit
We were thrilled to welcome Charell Star to speak to our Advocates on January 25, 2022. Charell is a former foster youth who now mentors’ youth in the system as well as being a Trustee for the New York CASA Board. She is a passionate advocate for foster teens and participated in the documentary project ‘Humans of New York’. She shared her own experience in foster care before opening the floor for our Advocates’ questions. We learned how to approach, engage and motivate our foster youth by starting small. Finding out what our teens enjoy and looking for a way to connect with them based on their interests. Charell emphasized that success can look very different for each foster youth because timing plays such an important role. They must be ready for the next step and that their past troubles and experiences can hold them back and we must be sensitive to when their timing is right.
Charell explained that later in their lives, foster youth remember and value those people who looked out for them. Be it a foster parent, or a teacher or their CASA. They value people who are there to support them when things are not going well. Foster teens need to trust their CASA and tend to lump adults into one category together, so Advocates need to delineate how they differ from everyone else – that they are not part of the system, that they are volunteers and are not being paid to be there. Advocates have to be transparent about what they can share and what they cannot share with their appointed child and if necessary, they have to diligently follow up to make sure that the Case worker provides much needed information so that teens are not kept unnecessarily in the dark. We discussed the fact that many foster teens are going through life lacking basic skills which can lead to embarrassment so CASA can look for those gaps and help gently guide their teens – how to leave a phone message for someone, how to pronounce certain words, how to behave at a job interview. Advocates need to provide a safe, non-judgmental space. It is important to let them know that if they age out early, they do so without supports but that they can sign back in too. We also discussed the value of being there to provide feedback, to praise our teens. They may do well on a test and without family – there is no one to tell them how well they did or congratulate them. CASA can be the person to provide that much needed reinforcement.
Charell shared her own journey and how important therapy has been for her to move forward from her past. She emphasized the importance of destigmatizing therapy and letting our teens know that it is very beneficial and that it is normal and that it can be a long process. We finished the session by agreeing that providing opportunities for foster youth to meet each other and recognize they are not alone are very important. Finally, we reminded ourselves that success will be different for each youth, and we need to meet them there and not try and impose our own standards but be ready to encourage them. Success for a foster teen can be being independent and it can just be breaking out of the cycle.