David Ambroz is being honored as a Champion of Change for Foster Care
As a former foster youth, having spent more than a decade in and out of care, I have lived through the best intentions of institutions in multiple states. The Child Welfare Industrial Complex (CWIC), made up of the myriad of actors in the life of a dependent child, acts to perpetrate the agency’s particular interest. Often, this coincides with the best interest of a child, but not always. For example, in the name of privacy, there was often a slow transfer of educational documents, preventing my timely enrollment. While serving a valid privacy interest, this is a lack of common sense in the youth's interests – and education is the victim. Actors remain in their silo, serving their agency goals, but doing so inadvertently causes the youth to suffer. Structural reform requires collaboration between all parts of society, and especially public engagement. Public engagement can translate into political attention, power and resources that can change outcomes. Yet the public only hears from (or about) the CWIC during times of tragedy, leading to benign neglect or short bursts of brutal attention. Achieving fundamentally different outcomes, requires all parties to work together in telling the full story about Foster Care.
In order to effect structural change in Child Welfare, the CWIC must convene as a larger societal ‘movement.’ FosterMore, is an effort in that direction. Between what works, evidence based practice, and sustained implementation, is a gulf – a gulf made up of a lack of public awareness and engagement. Instead of speaking to the vast majority of Americans, the CWIC uses terms and language that disenfranchises the public. Forming a partnership with the public, private groups, foundation and government – FosterMore came together to bridge that gap – engage the public, and therefore their elected leaders. In much the same way as the environmental, women's cancer, and other movements have come together; FosterMore is a brazen attempt to recruit Americans to join a movement to understand and end the inherited poverty of foster care.
Much as “Race for the Cure,” represented by the pink ribbon, seeks to orient our passion and attention around curing women’s cancers; FosterMore seeks to have “Education” as the north star, a rallying point to do right by our children. Education is the communication of knowledge and culture, from one to another. Education can be communicated passively, through the culture or more succinctly, through formalized settings. The remarkable nature of this knowledge is its ability to act as a key to unlock potential. At times, one aspect of education is valued over the other – yet both are vital to thrive. Foster youth have "graduate degrees" in resiliency, but have their progress in education impeded by circumstance. The cumulative effect of this is to lock foster youth into a cycle of inherited poverty.
Educational access can be the bridge out of this cycle – but extra care must be taken to empower this last generation of educationally impoverished; and that requires an army, a movement that must include the general public. Working together, FosterMore has raised awareness, chipped away at ignorance, prejudice and indifference to shine a light on the amazing potential of foster youth and families. FosterMore has created an “American Indian College Fund-equivalent,” a national scholarship for foster youth, to underpin all of our efforts in public engagement. The Scholarship will help the public think of our foster youth differently, but just as the Pink Ribbon is a symbol, it will be a gateway that allows the public to be part of the solution.
The work of the movement will not end, as every other movement has taught us. Yet, the movement must start – and FosterMore is that start.
David Ambroz is the Executive Director of Corporate Citizenship & Social Responsibility for Disney | ABC Television Group and in that role created FosterMore. He is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.