Teens give a voice to those in foster care in hopes of making the system more effective

CLEVELAND - "We've got to fight that fight and it's not going to stop. Foster care is inevitable."

Those are powerful words coming from a young man who is familiar with life in the foster care system. His mother was in the system and subsequently, so was he.

His name is Daniel Taylor. He is a part of a group that fights for the rights of those in foster care. They empower them to speak up about their experiences.

Who are they?

Teens and young adults who are or have been in the foster care system. The teen advocate group, known as TAG, meets twice a month to plan and coordinate efforts that address the changing need of teens in care and those aging out. It has become a personal mission for Taylor.

"I kind of look at it as being the Harriet Tubman for the foster kids," Taylor said. "It's a process. It's a long process and a lot of times you might feel alone. You know there's a light but you don't know where to look for it. And since  I've been through the light I want to help more people go to that light."

One of those people is his friend Demetrius McGee. He says TAG helped him to mature.

"With me, I was never the type of person to reach out a lot of times. I always had the positive mindset but always kept close to myself. Now I'm able to branch out. I'm able to have some networking with a lot of people. I've met a lot of new individuals and I've opened up a lot more," McGee said.

TAG coordinator Jamiese Myers has been with the agency for 10 years. She has seen the faces. She knows their stories. So I asked the question. "Is there a fear of aging out of the system?"

Myers didn't hesitate to say "Yes." She said because of the fear the group works hard to come up with programs to prepare the youth for life after foster care. For example, they have Independent Living workshops where they discuss how to open a checking account, balance a checkbook, find resources for housing and apply for college.

What is shared in the meetings is genuine. Lifelong connections are formed and the foundation is simple, give a voice to teens in foster care and make a difference.

TAG has traveled to Columbus to attend a conference on ways to prevent homelessness amongst youth aging out of care. Two of its members participated in a video that will be used to train attorneys, judges and other court officials on how to better prepare youth in foster care for their court hearings.

For more information on TAG, click here: www.cfs.cuyahogacounty.us

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