By Peggy Hoyt-Hock, MVL Board Member
Foster Children. . . What comes to mind when you read this term? When I think of foster children, I tend to visualize something out of Oliver Twist . . . a group of young kids, hanging together, with little supervision. Then of course, I think of Jane Eyre, Annie or Harry Potter. Upon further reflection, I recall a few friends and acquaintances,who have on occasion mentioned that when young, they were fostered until perhaps being adopted or otherwise growing into successful, professional adults.
Then, consider this statistic: In the US, just over 30 percent of typical kids obtain a bachelor’s degree by age 25. When compared to children from the foster care system this number drops to two percent! Until writing this blog, I was unaware of the gap; honestly never giving the topic much thought. This difference presents just one example of the significant challenges children who age-out of the foster system must face.
The phone call came out of the blue. A professional young attorney, in fact an MVL Rovira Scholar introduced herself. “I am calling to ask you to serve as a volunteer for the first MVL Fostering Success Legal Clinic in July.” I asked her to tell me more about it. In the course of our conversation, I confirmed my commitment and discovered that Leeah Lechuga had direct personal experience with the foster care system.
If time would allow, we would both place individual calls to each good hearted attorney we know asking them to volunteer for this new Fostering Success Legal Clinic. Since neither of us have time, we are publishing this blog.
MVL has been fortunate to have had our recent Rovira Scholar, Leeah Lechuga. She reached out to share some of the challenges faced by an individual who ages-out of the foster care system. Leeah is a young and dynamic Colorado attorney, who recently left MVL for a Clerkship in the 18th Judicial District. If you happen to see her there, please join us in thanking her for arranging to have MVL partner with others to establish the new MVL“Fostering Success Legal Clinic.”
Snippets of the interview follow:
Peg, Q: You have personal experience with having to navigate the system. Can you share what it was like?
Leeah, A: My experience with my only out-of-home placement was wonderful. My foster parents made my experience with the system transformative.
It was the other systems that were difficult, after I aged out — student financial aid, finding an apartment, buying a car — I felt lost and incompetent constantly. I also felt lost in other ways, particularly recognizing the value in healthy relationships and building a healthy community. That is so important, but it took me a long time to get here.
Peg, Q: What can you tell the attorneys who read this blog, and may consider volunteering for this clinic — particularly those who may not have volunteered with MVL before — with regard to specific knowledge, skills, or experience they need?
Leeah, A: Attorneys, your willingness to be there is the biggest thing.
It is followed closely by a willingness to be an open book. Most of the legal issues won’t be complex. But you never know what seemingly trivial answer will unlock a whole new level of understanding and way of thinking for these young people. Something you say may connect with something that was said or overheard in a previous encounter. You can be transformative.
If you have not signed up to help with this clinic yet, please do so now. Let’s see how many lives the “Fostering Success Legal Clinic” can help transform over time! If you are interested, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on the MVL blog on July 3, 2014.