How one person changed this woman’s life while growing up in foster care

Saturday evening I was in Washington D.C. for a jazz and blues performance to benefit the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA).  As the board chair of this nationally recognized advocacy organization, I was happy to be present and thank the 200 plus attendees for their support of CWLA. The performer, a renowned jazz singer, Janiva Magness, herself an alumna of the foster care system, is a Los Angeles resident who uses her music and performances as a platform to advocate for the needs of children and youth in foster care. The other LA connection was the sponsorship of the event by ABC Family’s “The Fosters,” a television series that depicts the challenges of providing foster care.

Janiva  is a passionate advocate who shared with the audience her family’s struggles, the role foster care played in her life, and how as an adult she shows her gratitude for all those who cared for her by giving back to child welfare and foster care organizations.

She mentioned how it was a high school teacher who helped her move beyond the self- destructive course she was on and to find a creative outlet for her anger and disappointment. She described how he confronted her disruptive behavior by taking the time to sit with her, listen to her concerns, and reassure her things would get better if only she would let others into her life. It was a turning point for her, and she was able to start expressing herself through music. Decades later, her music continues to give voice to her deepest emotions and provides depth to her soul-filled musical renditions.

She related what all the studies show: All it takes is one person who is selfless and committed to a child in need to make a difference. Ideally that person is a child’s parent, offering care within the context of the home and community. However, if for some reason, a parent can not be such an affirming presence, it is imperative that every child know some adult, hopefully within their family, to be an anchor in a world fraught with challenges. At its best, foster care provides the safe haven and the faithful adult figures who make it possible for children to feel secure, thrive, and hope for happiness.

More and more, foster care is seen as an important component of the continuum of care required to best serve children in the child welfare system. Institutions like Hillsides serve as important treatment centers where children can stabilize and effective plans oriented to their long- term stability can be developed and delivered. To be effective, this treatment engages the family and the other caregivers to set a child and family on their way to reunion. Foster families can be an important part of that continuum, providing a safe therapeutic bridge to a child’s family of origin. The adage is true:  It does take a village to raise a child.

During this national Foster Care Month, lend your support and help us maintain our efforts to leverage the resources at our disposal to create lasting change for all those we serve. Check out Hillsides website for more information on how you can help and consider purchasing Janiva’s newly released single. All proceeds support the Child Welfare League of America, our national advocacy organization.



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