Community ‘tribe’ supports foster children

Security, trust and love are just a few values that most people want to have in a relationship. For more than 400,000 children and teenagers in the foster care system, these values are not only wanted but necessary.

The Foster Hope Alliance partnered with the ULM Health Studies department to help create the “Tribe” event. 

Teenagers aged 14 to 17, the most renounced age group of foster kids, came to connect with other teens across Louisiana and build friendships and networks.

Margie Nielson, the foster care ambassador for the northern regions for the Louisiana Foster Care Support Organization, said that this event was to support foster children and families.

“We went from community to community asking the foster families and organizations what they needed,” Nielson said. “They all emphatically asked for things that would support teens and families of teens.”

The event lasted the whole day and it presented the teens with information on mental and sexual health, life skills and career readiness tools.

It was also way for the teens to build connections, friendships and networks with other teens in similar situations to them.

“In events like these, they can organically get to know one another and network together,” Nielson said. “We want them to know that there are resources in the community, like through ULM and from the organization that I’m in—they are never alone.” 

52% of children and teens in foster care are boys and 48% are girls. The average age of a child in the system is eight and a half years old.

One of the teens participating in the event said that they learned some positive information about self-worth that boosted their self-confidence, while another said they learned the danger of human trafficking and what red flags to look for.

“I hope they learn to just take care of themselves,” Nielson said. “The core message from all of the sessions is to let them know they are worth it and that there are resources available that are meant to help them better their self-worth and independence.”

Whether one or 50 children showed up to participate, the Foster Hope Alliance is forever willing to show children and teens in the foster care system that they matter.

“Just knowing that someone offered them something to give them support, teach them, show them, have fun and connect with them […] has been a checkmark on our goal list,” Nielson said.