The Real Word: Young People Creating Change

Candace, Rodney, Rosie and Ashlee tell their stories of growing up in foster care and the difference a CASA volunteer made in their lives.

Program: Voices for Children
Location: San Diego, CA

The Real Word is a group of courageous young people who live or have lived in the foster care system in San Diego County. Panel members share their stories at speaking engagements throughout the country. Their goal is to educate others about the realities of foster care, and the role that each of us can play in improving the system.

Real Word panelists are trained and supervised by San Diego’s Voices for Children, a National CASA member program.

We recognize and applaud The Real Word as one of our 35 Faces of CASA!

Candace – 20 years old

Entered foster care: 11 years old

Met CASA volunteer: 8 years ago

Emancipated out of the system: 18 years old

Reason for joining The Real Word: Foster care needs to be changed. There need to be people who are willing to help. And if I can do that, I’ll tell my story all day. If I am making a difference, that is the biggest blessing of all.

My four brothers and I were removed from a neglectful home after suffering years of physical and emotional abuse. We were separated, placed in homes throughout San Diego County. My CASA volunteer was the only person that made sure my brothers and I got to see one another. If it wasn’t for her a lot of the things I have accomplished would not have happened – including having the relationship I have with my siblings.

Candace is currently in her third year in college. She plans to graduate from University of California – Davis with a double major in communications and political science. She hopes to be a broadcast journalist and an attorney for foster youth.

Rodney – 16 years old

Entered foster care: 6 months old

Met CASA volunteer: 4 years ago

Reason for joining The Real Word: I feel that every foster youth has a voice that needs to be heard. We all have something to say.

I entered foster care when I was a baby due to abuse by my parents, both drug users. I didn’t know who my mother was until I was 10 years old. I met my CASA when I was 12. He motivated me to work hard in high school to make up for lost credits and time. He opened my eyes to the fact that education is key. Without my CASA volunteer I would still be moving backward.

Rodney is a junior in high school, preparing to attend the University of California – Santa Barbara or New York University. He wants to go to law school and become a well known prosecutor.

Rosie – 21 years old

Entered foster care: 3 years old

Met CASA volunteer: 7 years ago

Emancipated out of the system: 19 years old

Reason for joining The Real Word: First of all I love to talk! For the longest time, no one was listening. Now that I have an audience of people finally listening, it feels great. I know sharing my story helps people understand more about what we go through, and more importantly, what our CASAs mean to us.

My CASA had the best impact on me just by loving me. Being in foster care I felt unloved, lost and definitely unwanted, to the point of considering suicide at times. My CASA volunteer taught me that I was important, that my life could be so much different than the lives my parents had lived.

Rosie currently works full time and hopes to return to college in the near future to pursue a degree in communications.

Ashlee – 16 years old 

Entered foster care: 10 years old

Met CASA volunteer: 2 years ago

Reason for joining The Real Word: Telling my story makes me feel content with my past, that it is OK that I was abused, that I went through all of these negative things because now I know that on the other side there is a brighter day. Being on the panel has helped me understand more about who I am, and that my past does not define me.

For years I was living in a home that felt normal to me. But to child protective services it was abuse and neglect. My CASA volunteer’s wisdom has guided me, her consistency has showed me that there are beautiful people in this world that care for me and will stick by my side. The way she believes in me has helped me tremendously to be the person I am today.

Ashlee is a junior in high school, preparing to attend the University of California – Santa Barbara after she graduates.