Teens, young adults share personal stories of growing up in Utah’s foster care system

Oct 24, 2023, 10:33 PM | Updated: Oct 25, 2023, 8:23 am

ST. GEORGE — In the heart of St. George, a couch conversation hosted by the 1999 Collective provided a platform for foster care alumni to share their stories. The 1999 Collective, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to leveraging the lived experiences of its co-founder and others who have aged out of the foster care system to make a positive impact on the lives of current foster youth.

Natalie Clark, co-founder of the 1999 Collective, took on the role of moderator for the evening. Having personally experienced aging out of foster care, Clark is intimately familiar with the challenges faced by young people in the system. The event, held as part of Foster Youth Voice Month, aimed to break the silence surrounding foster youth experiences.

“Foster youth voices are silenced. Young people do not oftentimes get to be put in the driver’s seat of our own life to really explain what we need,” shared Weaver, a representative of the foster youth community.

The evening unfolded with Clark facilitating a discussion that allowed over 100 attendees to listen to the narratives of success and struggles from adults who grew up in foster care. The overarching theme was clear: it’s crucial to provide foster youth with a platform to express themselves and to be seen as more than just individuals who have experienced foster care.

One panelist, Kaitlin Spark, 22, shared her journey of spending 3 1/2 years in the Utah foster care system. The applause echoed through the venue as she proudly announced her acceptance into the nursing program at Southern Utah University.

“I have an obligation to be on this panel today. Because I have the option to share my story, an opportunity to share my voice and to show that we’re more than just foster youth,” expressed Kaitlin Spark.

Bo, the youngest person in the state of Utah to graduate high school early and become a University of Utah student, showcased another facet of success within the foster care community.

The ultimate goal of the panelists was clear – to build more informed, compassionate, and supportive communities for youth in foster care. By sharing their stories, these individuals aimed to break down stereotypes and foster understanding among the broader community.

As the Couch Conversation came to a close, the audience was left with a profound sense of the strength, resilience, and potential that exists within the foster care community. The 1999 Collective continues to be a driving force in amplifying the voices of those who have experienced foster care, ensuring that their narratives contribute to a more compassionate and supportive society for all.

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Teens, young adults share personal stories of growing up in Utah’s foster care system