“My lived experience . . .”

“My lived experience placed me on a course to take my pain and turn it into purpose.”

Working in the Community Based Services Division at CV has special meaning for me. I would not be sitting here today if it was not for my own experience in foster care. My lived experience placed me on a course to take my pain and turn it into purpose.

My mom was dealing with some serious mental health issues when I was young, to the point that it wasn’t safe for me to stay with her. I was in foster care intermittently from ages 3 to 21. I had mixed emotions about that for a long time – anger, guilt, and sadness. But now I look at it differently. Because of my time with various foster families, I was still able to experience many rites of passage that young people go through. I have wonderful memories of cooking in the kitchen with a family, doing homework at the kitchen table with other siblings, and participating in extracurricular activities in school and my community such as softball, tv production club, and building homes through Habitat for Humanity. I lived with one foster family when I was in high school who really treated me as their own, and I felt like I belonged for the first time. I even started to think about the future and exploring what was next, and that’s when I first thought about social work as a career. It took a lot of hard work, and aging out of care was not easy, but I was able to get on my feet and get my degree. Today, I feel fortunate that I can use my lived experience at CV. I work with kids every day who are in situations like I was, and I try to place them with families where they can literally get life-changing experiences.

Living with foster families was not easy, but I feel like it was an important part of my journey to get where I am today and be able to affect so many young people. Being within and not separate from my community taught me how to navigate tough situations such as facing peer pressure and interacting with people from different backgrounds and cultures. It built character in me, like the time I accidentally broke my neighbor’s bike and I had to pay for it. I’m so thankful that I had these experiences, and I hope that by sharing them and working to place kids with foster families I am doing my part to make a difference.

Kaylene is the Coordinator for CV’s Westchester Therapeutic Foster homes program. She connects teens with loving foster families. Kaylene’s experience is unique and we are lucky to have her voice in the foster and adoption process. What We Believe – We value those who come to CV with lived experiences in the systems we are part of. They teach us, they improve our understanding of the work, and they help us build trust with the children and families we are privileged to serve.

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