Today, Damitry Stallings is a poised teenager. However, he was not always that way. His JCCA social worker, Allison Bonesteel, says, “When Damitry first arrived in foster care, he was very quiet and had trouble communicating when he felt upset.” Now, after working with Ms. Bonestell, he has become an open and caring young man. He is also so creative, that he recently won a First Prize award for Youth in Foster Care, an essay contest sponsored by New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services and the College Board. Here is an excerpt from his winning essay:

“One of the biggest challenges I have faced in foster care is being able to keep in contact with my family. I have been in three foster care placements in three years, so it is hard trying to connect to my family on a regular basis, either in person or on the phone. I can’t live with them, but that does not mean we cannot be in each other’s lives. It is very easy when you are in a foster home to think about how your family might forget you, because you are in someone else’s home.

When I first got here to my current, pre-adoptive home, I had a lot of confused feelings about my aunt, my siblings, and my grandmother. I did not know if they wanted to talk to me. I knew I liked my new foster home, but would they be mad about that? I didn’t want my new foster family to be mad. But I had to do something, because in the back of my head, I just missed my family.

My first step was to talk to my [JCCA] social worker. I asked if my family was okay. She said they were and they asked about me, but understood if I needed some time. I was able to find some of my siblings and aunt on Facebook. This actually helped because we could talk, but we couldn’t see each other. They didn’t see me cry when I wrote to them.

It took almost a year, but we finally got a visit set up with everyone. I was nervous, excited, torn, and scared. But when I finally visited with my family and told them that I wanted my foster family to adopt me, they told me I didn’t need to feel worried or sad. They just wanted to make sure this new family loved me and I loved them. And that was all true.

In the place I am in now, I am so lucky because I can talk to both my foster family and biological family. I am overcome with joy, because deep down in my heart I know I am accepted and loved by both families.”