Foster Youth Luggage

By Latrenda Leslie

When I was asked to pose for a photograph about foster youth luggage, the clear plastic bags that foster youth belongings are put into when they enter and leave a placement, I was eager and happy to take part.

The photo does not bring up bad foster memories for me. Unlike other foster youth, I had places with biological family where I could leave my most precious items. I did have my belongings put into plastic bags, but I learned to be detached from things while in care, because theft was so common.

Foster Youth Museum image
From placement to placement, foster youth carry their belongings in clear plastic garbage bags. Latrenda Leslie is featured in Foster Youth Museum’s “Lost Childhoods” exhibition at Grace Cathedral. Open daily 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., Oct. 15 – Nov, 1. Admission is free. (“Foster Youth Luggage” by Ray Bussolari)

I kept nothing of value with me, so when I saw my clothes packed into the clear bags, it had no power over me. The strength I had as a foster kid was to accept the harsh consequences, like thievery among youth, and plan for it. What the picture means to me now, is a reminder of how many times I have moved after age 18 and after foster care. Instability is a common reason that youth enter care, and instability is a very common experience for youth after they exit care.

When you see my photo in Lost Childhoods at Grace Cathedral, I want you to think about the instability foster youth experience, and I want you to know that we carry on and that we are strong. And there are ways you can support foster youth in your community.

I hope to see you at Grace Cathedral, October 15 – November 1, 2015. Come any day, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.