On any given day in America, there are 443,000 children in the foster care system. embrella, through their brand-new podcast What the Foster, hopes to give these forgotten youth a voice to share their experience, their insights and ultimately their story.
"I didn't feel like I was the definition of a foster kid,” Ananda Tyminski said in episode three.
“The image that I had in my head - you're going to be a drug addict- you're going to come from a really really bad home, you've been to juvi (juvenile detention centers). That's what I thought a foster kid was. Maybe I didn't think I was going to end up like a foster kid like completely."
Over six weeks starting November 1st, What the Foster: Season 1 will share the stories of four New Jersey youth.
In their own words, Kaysie, Stephanie, Ananda and Shakree will describe their experiences and struggles as they were removed from their homes and thrust into the foster care system. Cutting through the misconceptions about foster care and foster youth, What the Foster sheds light on what it really means to be an innocent child in the foster care system in America.
“It’s more important than ever to listen to the marginalized voices of the foster care system,” What the Foster’s Producer Lloyd Nelson said. “In the most divisive of times, we all agree we want what’s best for our children. The only way for us to know what that is, especially as it relates to foster care, is to listen to those who experienced it. We need to hear them if we’re going to help them.”
The statistics for foster youth in America are harrowing.
Nearly 50 percent of high school foster youth will not graduate, while less than 15 percent of those that do will actually enroll in college. Of those that do make it into college, only three percent will go on to graduate.
However, these numbers don’t scratch the surface of the story.
What the Foster aims to dig deeper.
Whether it’s Shakree’s struggles to raise a young daughter while going to school for dentistry or Kaysie’s journey through nearly a dozen homes on her way to Capitol Hill, What the Foster focuses on real people and their real problems in foster care.
SPECIAL EPISODE: ERIC LISZT
Eric Liszt had been a foster parent for six years when he met his foster daughter, who we will call Angelica to protect her privacy. She was only four, but she was already experiencing intense psychological distress, and was hospitalized multiple times. It wasn't long before he was traveling internationally to try to reunify her with her father, hoping that the family connection would be what she needed to thrive.
SPECIAL EPISODES: MEET ALEJANDRA
Content Warning: Sexual abuse, physical abuse, childhood death.
Alejandra is born in a small town in Colombia and face neglect while her mother and father struggle with addiction. Alejandra and her brother end up in a foster home, but the neglect and abuse increases – resulting in her brother’s death. When the neighbors notice the physical abuse being done to Alejandra, they call the police, and she is removed from the home. She moves a few more times before a family from the United States shows interest in adopting her.
Alejandra moves to the United States to live with her new family, but it isn’t the ending she imagined for herself.
Episode 9 of What the Foster: Stephanie, Forgiveness
Since entering foster care, Stephanie had relied on her social skills to navigate her life. Now that she was preparing for college however, all of the emotions and trauma that she had been running from were catching up to her. This week, in our final episode of Season 1, listen in to learn how a bathroom door set Stephanie on a collision course with her past trauma and helped lead her to her future career with Wells Fargo.
Episode 8 of What the Foster: Stephanie, Transitions
In foster care after immigrating to the United States, Stephanie was determined to make the most of her life. After being separated from her mother and siblings, Stephanie wound up in a transitional living home. In this episode, Stephanie shares with us the ways her time in that group home affected her and shows how she worked to achieve her dreams despite the setbacks associated with removal. Listen in to hear about her experiences with prison food, independent living and the beginning of her life after foster care.
Episode 7 of What the Foster: Stephanie, Dislocation?
This week, we meet Stephanie, a German immigrant who ended up in the New Jersey foster care system after her arrival in the United States. Today, Stephanie works for Wells Fargo in public relations, but in 2006, that future seemed distant. Separated from her family as a teenager, Stephanie found herself in a group home, getting meals from the juvenile detention center next door. Follow Stephanie as she navigates the foster care system and tries to find success.
Episode 6 of What the Foster: Shakree and Ananda, Looking Forward
In the last part of his story Shakree receives a book that inspires and shapes his life’s journey, setting him on the path towards dental school. He utilizes state programs to help him pursue his dreams. Meanwhile, Ananda also heads to college. She doesn’t share her involvement in out of home care with her new friends out of fear that it will alter their perceptions of her.
Episode 5 of What the Foster: Shakree and Ananda, Who Are We?
Ananda is forced to reevaluate her idea of a "foster kid" when she becomes one. Shakree has to figure out where he, and his daughter, are headed in life.
Episode 4 of What the Foster: Shakree and Ananda, Beginnings
Shakree's mother died when he was five, leaving him to bounce from home to home for much of the next decade. Ananda's mother's troubles sent Ananda from New Hampshire to New Jersey to live with her stranger of a father. How do these adolescents respond to developmental years filled with turmoil and instability?
Episode 3 of What the Foster: Kaysie, The Path to Help
Kaysie would not be adopted. Left to figure out her own future, she began a new chapter in Camden, New Jersey. This week on What the Foster?, witness the final part of Kaysie's story as she finds the path that would eventually turn her from an average high school student to a successful, driven social worker and advocate for foster youth.
Episode 2 of What the Foster: Kaysie, Home to Home
"What did I do to deserve this?" Kaysie wondered out loud. Whether it was getting tackled by her foster parent or threatened with placement in a group home, Kaysie could not understand how her life had become so twisted. This week on What the Foster?, follow Kaysie as she survives a system that seems intent on crushing her spirits.
Episode 1 of What the Foster: Kaysie, Removed
12 foster care placements. Negligent caseworkers. Controlling foster parents. This was foster care for Kasie Getty. Born to a drug-addicted mother and adopted by parents who would later come to abuse her, Kaysie has come a long way since she first began her life-altering trip through foster care. This week on What The Foster, you'll hear Part 1 of Kaysie's story, the heartbreaking tale of how a bright young teenager suddenly found herself ripped from the life and communit she knew and thrust into New Jersey's foster care system.