By Lisa Goldblatt Grace, Co-Founder and Director, My Life My Choice
In the fall, girls in our My Life My Choice Leadership Corps were asked to work on a campaign and create a poster as part of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) new Missing or Absent Children in Department Care or Custody policy. This new policy demonstrates the Department’s recognition that when children in their care are not at home or in placement, they are in fact missing, likely in danger, and absolutely in need of adult support. Their request for help from the young people at My Life My Choice demonstrates DCF’s belief in our survivor-led, social justice model.
Many of the My Life My Choice girls in our Leadership Corps Program understand the impetus and experience of running away from a personal perspective, and the campaign is an attempt to bring their authentic voice to the issue, for youth by youth.
This resulting poster, aptly named, “The Streets Don’t Love You,” will have an impact on vulnerable girls statewide.
At My Life My Choice, we are pleased with this new policy and grateful to have had a role in the Department’s shift in thinking. The poster campaign aims to communicate a message of the realistic dangers of running, encouraging girls to think before they leave home or a program.
The My Life My Choice Leadership Corps takes place in the fall, summer, and spring and is a paid part-time position for our mentees. This Corps is a powerful group, in which girls use their pain and their resilience to amplify their voices and make change. Nina*, a Leadership Corps member, commented, “I know for me, the Leadership Corps has helped me to grow, to heal, and become a leader whose voice is being heard. Being a part of My Life My Choice is an experience that has helped me become the person I am today. With the support of my My Life My Choice family, I will be able to continue on my path to success, and be encouraged to become an even better and more independent daughter, sister, friend, mentee, student, and leader.”
For 10 weeks this past fall, Audrey (our Associate Director) and I worked with the Leaderships Corps to create a poster that was aimed at preventing girls in the care of Department of Children and Families from running from care. The incredible design firm, Driver 8, worked with the girls to hone their vision and develop a poster that reflected their thinking. The girls first talked about their own experiences of being missing or having run away—what led them to be out there, what they experienced, and what they wish they had done differently. The girls looked at types of PSA campaigns, potential images and tag lines. The girls then wrote the rest of the content in their own words. It was an iterative process and one that the girls did eagerly with a tremendous amount of thoughtfulness. Funded by DCF, the posters will be displayed in DCF offices statewide as well as group homes and residential treatment centers.
On January 12th, we held a celebratory unveiling of the poster at Fisher College. The girls led the program and had the opportunity to speak in front of a group of state leaders, staff, and supporters about the process and the final poster design. Caroline* reflected on her time when she had run away from a challenging home situation, saying, “The things I faced on the run were unexpected and scary. It’s not how I thought it was going to be. Not knowing where to lay my head at night. Not having money to support myself. Ending up in dangerous places and dangerous situations with dangerous people. ” She then went on to explain that she wanted to prevent girls from experiencing what she had.
This campaign will have an impact on vulnerable girls statewide. The young women of the Leadership Corps are stronger for their involvement in creating it. Their sense of pride at our launch event was palpable. This is true survivor leadership and reminds us of our primary role here at My Life My Choice: to support and amplify the powerful voices of young survivors so that true change can occur.
*Name changed to protect identity