CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. — May is Foster Care Awareness Month.
Those who are foster alumni, which are folks who aged out of the foster system, are working to bring attention to the disparities they face both in foster care and when they were transitioning into the real world.
During a roundtable event called Reimagining Support for Foster Care Youth and Alumni in Erie County, eight adults shared their foster care experience.
"This issue has been around for a very long time. When the pandemic occurred, I realized how much these young people did not have and were falling into at-risk activities. There were people preying on them, as far as getting into human sex trafficking. Access to drugs, abusive situations, and just living on the streets," says Leah Daniel, founder of Fostering Greatness Inc.
Daniel was once in foster care, and she organized the event the Reimagining Support for Foster Care Youth and Alumni in Erie County. Her goal is to highlight the challenges people of color face in the system. She also wants to help those who have aged out.
"The most that we've been focusing on is housing and mental health services," Daniel says.
The eight foster alumni believe financial education, reading fundamentals, and showing a strong, supportive family culture are just a few ideas foster teens need for success.
They want to wipe away the idea 'once they're grown, they're on their own.
In Cheektowaga, foster mom Camille Williams is trying to do that.
"I always told my mother I want to be a foster parent. Then in 2006, I got my first baby, and then, I started getting sibling sets. Then I had their niece living with us also," Williams says.
Now, a total of 10 foster children call Camille mom.
Channel 2's Keelin Berrian asked Camille, "How is it?" She said, "I love it. I love babies."
The same goes for Camille's 18-year-old son Jamar Williams.
"For the most part, really cool; it's just loud. Let's say it's really loud," says Jamar.
You might say Camille works double duty, a social worker by day, and a full-time mom all of the time. She got the idea to build a foster family from her favorite movie Annie.
"I always tell them how blessed they are because they are considered statistics," says Camille.