John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) is committed first and foremost to policy change. We work every day to improve policies for youth who have been in foster care or homeless by advocating for better laws, training communities to strengthen local practices and conducting research to inform policy solutions.
But sometimes, it’s not policy, but the personal touch that makes all the difference.
That’s what JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley experienced recently when she was contacted by former foster youth and JBAY Youth Advocate Junely Merwin. Junely emailed Amy expressing disappointment that she had lost a pearl necklace she received as a gift from Foster Care Counts at an annual retreat of campus support programs. Junely lost it when she moved out of her transitional housing program after exiting foster care.
As those familiar with foster care are aware, loss is an ever-present aspect of the system. Foster youth experience the loss of their family at removal and as they change placements and schools, they often lose relationships with friends and caring adults. While for some, the loss of a necklace is an inconvenience, for a youth in foster care it can be a reminder of loss and instability.
Junely received the pearl necklace as a gift from Foster Care Counts, a non-profit founded by Jeanne Pritzker that has provided graduation gifts, computers, and so many other forms of support to foster youth in college. After hearing that Junely lost the necklace, our friends at Foster Care Counts responded, replacing the necklace and sending it to Junely in time for her to take on a trip.
Replacing the necklace was a surprise and meant a tremendous amount to Junely. “Wow! Thank you very much. I really cherished it. This means so much to me.”
It also meant a lot to JBAY Executive Director Amy Lemley. “This gesture says a lot. It’s a great example of an organization motivating system change while also remembering that each young person in foster care is unique, with their own needs and experiences.”