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May 2016Vol. 17, No. 3Reflections on a Life in Foster Care

KQED Radio, an NPR-member radio station owned by Northern California Public Broadcasting, featured an interview with Jennifer Rodriguez, executive director of the Youth Law Center, a public interest law firm that works to protect children in the U.S. foster care and justice systems. In the interview, Ms. Rodriguez shares her experiences and lessons learned as a young person who spent time in both foster care and juvenile justice institutions in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Ms. Rodriguez talks about how she was placed in group homes as a young teen and was never placed with a family. She discusses how the lack of parental care and nurturing affected her life as a young person and how it continues to impact her as an adult and as a parent. Ms. Rodriguez also shares some of what she has learned about the difficulties foster parents can face in working effectively with the child welfare system, noting that foster parents often leave the system because of barriers such as long waits to get licensed, not receiving adequate information about the child or children placed in their care, and difficulties in accessing medical care for the child and receiving a child's full medical history. When there are not enough foster parents available to care for the children in the child welfare system, children may be robbed of the chance to have a nurturing adult in their lives.

Calls from listeners were also featured and included the following:

  • A foster parent requested assistance on how he could better advocate for the child in his care and ensure the child's needs are being met appropriately.
  • A court-appointed special advocate (CASA) shared how a child's positive vs. negative experiences in out-of-home care environments can affect his or her behavioral issues.
  • A staff member from a group home discussed the qualities a group home needs to do good work for children.

Ms. Rodriguez also discussed reforms to legislation that are moving the field away from long-term group homes, as well as the importance of including foster parents as vital contributors to a child's team of advocates, talking to children and youth about what they need, and doing everything possible to ensure children have safe and stable childhoods.

Listen to the complete interview on the KQED Radio website at