Guest post by Sixto Cancel, a 20-year-old former foster child from Connecticut who advocates for foster children across the nation and helps them learn the skills they need to succeed in their futures.
Eighteen years ago, when I was just 11 months old, strangers came to my house and took me away. I was the fifth of 10 children. My mother couldn’t have kept me if she tried. She shot heroin day after day and even let my 3-year-old brother run into the street where he got smashed by a car.
I had a failed adoption and began to feel rejected and abandoned. I wondered why I was not wanted. The University of Chicago, Midwest Study (2010) shows that 40 percent of foster kids end up incarcerated, and 20 percent end up homeless, but I refuse to be a statistic. I won’t be a failure.
Soon my friends were calling me “Mr. Busybody” and a “know-it-all.” I needed to prepare and in that process I founded and now run a $17,500 program: Stellar Works Transitional Services. I designed the program to prepare foster children for adulthood through post-secondary education, including trades and certification. I wanted to give kids aging out of the foster care system the tools they needed to live and succeed on their own.
All this led me to an invitation by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative to a national training where I was selected to be part of the national board to further my advocacy. I went from having no voice to being on CNN, NPR, Harvard Law and other media outlets stating foster care issues. Since the airing, I have visited the nation’s capital to speak with Congressmen, law makers, conferences and agencies. My anger has developed into passion.
My experiences have built resiliency, perseverance, integrity and leadership. My childhood made me the person I am today. I look back at my past and I know that I would not change any event of my life, but I will do everything I can to make life easier for kids in foster care now.