Danielle’s story

Danielle Thompson tells her story:
Adapted from: Select Committee on Foster Care: May 12, 2006 Public Hearing on Foster Care
Okay so first of all, to all my homies (LAUGHTER) I’d like to thank you (LAUGHTER). I would like to thank you all for having us here. I would like to thank you guys for having us be able to speak on the issues that need to be faced: permanency, education, and transitional housing.

So first I’m going to start out. So my name is Danielle Thompson. I’m 20 years old, and I currently reside in San Francisco, California, which I love. AB-408, which was passed in 2003, and AB-1412, which was passed in 2005, requires social workers should ask foster youth about adult relationships that are important to them, and not only take action to support and maintain those relationships.

However, most of the youth are still not being engaged in identifying people that could be potential permanency options. I found my permanent connection while in the foster care system, not knowing that it was permanency. He got me through the tough time and tried to prepare me for the world I am in today. We had our ups and downs and we shared many laughters.

When deciding to venture out on my own, he said he would help me, and he did. I moved to San Francisco, and I lost contact with my permanent connection. I want to say permanency is not meant to last. Recently, I just had a crisis with my transitional housing. Yes, everyone, I still face issues in transitional housing.

I was at a breaking point in my transitional housing, and I really couldn’t call my permanent connection. Instead, while crying, my phone rang, and a networking buddy of mine—I do media work—I answered the phone, and he’s like, he’s talking to me, and he’s like, “Are you okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” And immediately offers me money, thinking that I have financial problems.

And I say no. Instead, he comes out of his busy job, and he works for AC Transit, you know, a really busy job in Oakland, California, and drives from Oakland to San Francisco to come and speak to me and just help me solve my problem, takes me to Starbucks, and you know, we just have like this, you know we’re on this a caffeine high.

We had the funniest conversation. And then you know, talking about my problem, and really, really, it really helped me. Because I didn’t have, I had people to turn to, but it just wasn’t working, and all he really did was listen to me. And that’s what I really needed, someone to just listen to my problems that I’d been keeping in for seven months living in San Francisco.

All the issues I face, youth who are aging out of the system will have to go through. I still struggle with homeless, separating from my family, dropping out of school. In less than two years that I had emancipated from the system, I was homeless five times. I really didn’t have a place to call home or a place to at least finish school.

I lost contact with my sisters and my whole family. Losing my family while going through—see if I’m going to cry, because my family’s up there. Okay. Losing—

Rebecca Cohn: Take your time. And don’t worry about it if you have to cry. We’ll probably cry too.

Unnamed Permanent Connection: I love you.

Danielle Thompson: I love you too. Losing my family going through these hard times made my situation worse. I remember growing up with my brothers and sisters and sharing all these secrets with them. I have not told my sisters these secrets because they’re so far away.

Siblings are important to have while in the foster care system, because they are the only permanent connection that you have.

(She cries, and Assemblyman Mark Leno hands her his handkerchief)

Oh my God, he gave me his hanky!

(LAUGHTER)

Siblings are important to have all in the foster care system, because it is the only permanent connection we have. So we want to make sure that those connections stay alive. I feel like if I had that permanent connection, then I wouldn’t have moved so much.

We as youth need to break the cycle of pushing away when help is being offered. And as adults, we need to not give up on our youth. They are not only our issues for today, but for the future. Permanency is important for all of you to have. No youth should have to live in this world without a lifelong connection or a caring adult in their life. So I have come up with a couple of recommendations as a young person who still struggles with life. (INAUDIBLE)

Rebecca Cohn: (INAUDIBLE)

Danielle Thompson: First, I feel we should have stronger enforcement with AB-408 and 1412. Second, siblings are important to have a connection with while in the system. So why break what is already ripped apart from us? Third, I had experienced multiple housing programs. Although I appreciate all the support, and the safe places from the streets, there are a lot of downfalls in these programs.

A lot of them still carry the way of a group home. This hinders our growth as young adults. It keeps us in this institutionalized mentality. We don’t need housing with rules and regulations. We need housing that is going to give us independence and stability.

For other youth stories from the hearing, click here.

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