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November 2, 2016
Sheila Cruz works as a Foster Parent Advocate at The Children’s Village, an organization that helps struggling children and families access resources and opportunities that can help them thrive and a strong partner of CCC’s. In her role, Sheila guides, supports and gives advice to the foster parents who serve as crucial resources for the youth whom The Children’s Village serves. This fall, Sheila is also taking the Community Leadership Course, because, she says, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to learn about so many different city agencies and child and family services firsthand.
Sheila is particularly interested in housing and health issues that allow children the chance to develop and be children. During the CLC’s week on housing and homelessness, she visited Chelsea Foyer, a supportive housing program for teens and young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, are homeless or are at risk of homelessness. Chelsea Foyer is a program of Good Shepherd Services.
“The need to advocate for this youth in this age group is so important because in my opinion the youth are in survival mode and they may think their voices are not important,” Sheila said. The visit prompted her to think about ways she could apply what she learned at the CLC to her everyday job responsibilities. She said she will encourage more Foster Parents to think about ways they can help youth close to aging out of foster care prepare for the next chapter of their lives so the transition out of foster care can be smoother and less traumatic.
Sheila has really enjoyed the connections she’s made with other CLC participants and hearing their stories about the ways they have been impacted by and think about the issues facing New York City’s children. She lives in the Bronx, enjoys coloring and knitting, and has three grown children and a pet fish named Blue.
And although the CLC is just a ten week course, Sheila knows the learning she is doing here will not end in November. She will continue to stay engaged with CCC and seek out other opportunities to learn more about advocacy in public policy.
“This is the beginning of being taught about advocating for NYC Children on a policy level,” she said.