George White is being honored as a Champion of Change for Foster Care
Leadership is about being a person who not only models change, but also being someone who is willing to get down in the trenches and do the hard work, ask the difficult questions, and challenge the status quo. Growing up, I was surrounded by people who made it their mission to serve others and affect change, including a loving foster family, who opened up their home to give me a fighting chance.
However, I see every day the effects the foster system has on kids, parents, families and entire communities. Too often, foster children are traumatized, marginalized, stigmatized, oppressed and forgotten. If we don’t fight for our children who will? To quote Ralph Ellison:
I am invisible. Misunderstood, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or fragments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me (Ellison, 1952).
In the preceding excerpt from Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel, Invisible Man, he conceptualizes how a large society can minimize the individual. Ellison did not proclaim this invisibility, it was created by a society that refuses to accept the validity of his existence. Although Ellison was referring to the experience of the Black American, I can relate more to his sentiments as a young man who was raised in foster care.
My invisibility confronted me vigorously—it was at home, in classrooms, and recreational spaces. However, my resilience helped me reach for greatness and discover my limitless potential. It was through these experiences that I realized all foster youth, when given the opportunity, have an unbelievable ability to achieve success. Foster youth, have more grit, character, tenacity and resilience than any other marginalized population I know.
This newfound awareness became increasingly important when my older brother turned 18 and was forced out of his foster home. He was doing everything right, yet, he was living on the street simply because the child welfare system said he was too old. I could not idly watch this injustice from the sidelines.
My brother’s journey became my rallying cry and call to action. With the help of Peace4Kids and the community I had built, I launched a campaign called “All I did was turn 18.” We took pictures where foster youth slept after being “kicked out” of the system and I rode my bike 1,149 miles in honor of all the foster youth who were expected become homeless that year in California.
This has led to my work with Fostering Change to clearly define the unique asset and skills that foster youth poses. In addition, I serve as the Program Assistant for the National Foster Youth Institute, where I work with a brilliant team to improve career and educational outcomes for current and former foster youth.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a champion as someone who fights or speaks publicly in support of a person, belief, or cause. Webster’s goes on to define change as making someone or something different. With that, I am truly humbled to be recognized as a Foster Care Champion of Change as I fight to make the foster care system a better experience.
George White serves as the Program Assistant at the National Foster Youth Institute as well as a Founding Member of Fostering Change, a program of Peace4Kids, in Los Angeles, California. George is a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University.