• Tasha Matthews, Peer Advocate

Finding Your Voice

“Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.” - Maya Angelou

A cordial welcome to everyone who has taken a moment to read the first blog post of Children’s Legal Services of San Diego (CLSSD) for transitional age foster youth (TAY)! My name is Tasha Matthews, and I am the Peer Advocate for CLSSD. Since October, my job has essentially been to connect non-minor dependents (NMD: 18-21 year old foster youth in Extended Foster Care) or those approaching 18 years of age with resources that can help them do the things they are passionate about in life, connecting you to work, college, and overall adulting opportunities for you all.

Quick backstory: I grew up in Alpine, California in one foster care placement my whole life. I was considered someone who was high risk, not just because I was foster youth, but because I was considered disabled. I didn’t get the most warm-hearted encouragement from my foster home that I would succeed and be independent. Either way, I excelled in school and made it through so many hurtles in my short years on this earth. I wound up learning how to advocate for myself in college and finding my own voice so that I could eventually use it to help others.

Ever since I was in middle school, I took a liking to poetry. I found myself being so fascinated by many great poets and musicians! My favorite poet was Maya Angelou. Her story of finding her voice when she had literally gone mute had always struck a chord with me on a deep level. I wasn’t always talkative as a kid, but I loved expressing myself through writing. When I got to college, I learned that for so long, other adults in my life were using their voice to speak for me. It got to the point where I needed to untangle from the web of misinformation and really come into my own person. So I continued to write poetry, but started going to open mics and as scary as that was, I finally found a way to express myself vocally. As my foster family and I grew apart, I became more experienced in developing my unique sound and sharing that with the world.

For those of the foster youth reading this, you may feel the same sentiments: so many adults in our lives are speaking for us rather than really hearing what we have to say. And for others, you may have a hard time vocalizing your needs, wants, and concerns because life gave you some pretty sour lemons, so like me, you might not have said much or felt like you even have much to say.

Please know that your voice matters, however you choose to express it and communicate the matters that are on your heart. There is power to your voice being heard. A frequency that needs to be emitted into the atmosphere. You have the distinct ability to share your perspective which will likely be the most important perspective to be heard in light of those supports and services around you trying to create a better future you, as you journey on the road to self-sufficiency and confidence. It’s okay to reflect and to introspect. It’s okay to take time for yourself if you are introverted. But, please remember that you can be the change that was not always there for you. You can be older sister or brother, or you can be the older brother or sister that you wish you had.

However long it takes for you to search for it, I hope you find your inner voice, and shake up the world with your resilient light.

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