We All Have a Voice
Kaysie's time at Center For Family Services was a stepping stone on her path to a positive future.
“I never thought I’d have my own place,” recalls Kaysie,“ August 2nd, 2010 is a day I will never ever forget.” This date marks Kaysie’s entry into Center For Family Services’ Camden DREAMS program; and a long way from her start at the Center’s Together Youth Shelter.
Kaysie was born into the foster care system and was adopted at age 2. Years later, when Kaysie was 14, she and her brothers and sisters were placed in foster homes, with some eventually being adopted. Kaysie wasn’t adopted but instead moved from home to home, in search of a stable living environment. “I learned so much from living with so many different people throughout my life,” says Kaysie. “Everyone has a different way of living and it’s important to respect that.”
After several different foster placements, Kaysie found herself at Center For Family Services’ Together Youth Shelter, a temporary emergency shelter providing a safe place to live and a caring, healing home environment.
While family reunification is always the primary goal, because this was not possible, Kaysie transitioned into the Center’s GrandSlam program, a structured transitional living program and supported apartments that provide transitional living assistance to homeless youth.
Slowly, with the help of a supportive staff, Kaysie became more focused. “It was nice just knowing that I had someone to turn to at GrandSlam,” said Kaysie. “Staff helped everyone get ready for prom, I learned to get along with people better, and I was given the opportunity to visit Washington, DC for Network for Good’s National Network for Youth Conference. I would have never been exposed to that if it wasn’t for Center For Family Services."
Kaysie’s graduation from the GrandSlam program corresponded with her graduation from high school and when she began her freshman year at Camden County College in the fall of 2010 she also began a new program at Center For Family Services.
“At Camden DREAMS, you have something you can call your own,” referring to her apartment. DREAMS is a permanent supportive housing program that helps teens “aging out” of the foster care system or those young adults without the support of a family and in need of a safe place to live; a perfect place for Kaysie to learn the foundations of living on your own and setting and achieving goals.
In 2010, Kaysie became president of the Youth Advisory Board at Center For Family Services with the goal of giving all youth an opportunity to have their voices heard. In following years, with support from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Kaysie had the opportunity to attend many conferences to advocate on behalf of homeless youth on a national level. Kaysie worked in conjunction with the state to help make changes to New Jersey’s foster care system by participating in the focus groups and sitting on committees that help influence decisions. Kaysie also helped with a pilot program to allow youth in different parts of the state to be able to attend their court hearings about their placement. She also appeared in a video encouraging youth to keep their DCPP cases open until they turn 21.
Kaysie graduated from Center For Family Services Camden DREAMS’ program in the spring of 2014 and moved into her own apartment. In the spring of 2017, she graduated from Rutgers University - Camden with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. Later that year, Kaysie was reunited with her biological siblings. She happily enjoys relationships with both her biological and adopted brothers and sisters.
In May 2018, Kaysie graduated from Rutgers University with her Masters Degree in Social Work. Soon after she moved to the Washington, D.C. metro area to accept a position with FosterClub as a policy specialist where she'll work with foster youth, alumni, and foster parents to help strengthen policy around foster care. Additionally, she'll serve as a consultant to the National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council.
"I'm so grateful for the support I received at Center For Family Services and the opportunity I had working with the Youth Advisory Board but I'm excited for my position with FosterClub and to work with other youth in foster care, community partners, and constituents."
Kaysie's future continues to shine bright as she works towards helping other young people like herself achieve their dreams.
“I want to use my experience to make an impact on youth. We all have a voice and people will listen.”
Kaysie's Awards & Accomplishments:
- Youth Leader of the Year, NJ Alliance of Children, Youth, and Families - 2012
- Against All Odds Award, Mayor's Youth Council - 2013
- Intern, Rutgers School of Social Work Summer Internship Program with the Office of Adolescent Services, Dept. of Children & Families - 2013
- Spark Action Top 24 Under 24, Youth Change Makers in America - 2013
- Youth Leader of the Year, Rutgers School of Social Work - 2014
- DIVA Award, National Hookup for Black Women - 2015
- Congressional Youth Fellowship Shadow
- Member of the National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council