Re: “Facing shortage of homes, Maine DHHS calls on families to take in foster children” (March 30):

I grew up in foster care and “aged out” of that system. I lived the struggles that youth in foster care today face – waiting for a foster home, wanting to be part of a family, wanting to feel cared for and accepted.

As a teen in foster care I sought independence, wanted to be heard and struggled with the stigma of being a “foster child.” I wanted my foster parents to accept me and not push me away when I challenged them.

As a teen, I joined the Youth Leadership Advisory Team, a leadership group for youth in foster care. I found acceptance in YLAT with other youth in foster care and in a family who accepted me as “a member of the family.” My voice was heard in both.

Today, I am a foster care alumnus, an advocate for youth in foster care and a co-facilitator of YLAT meetings.

Just as when I was a youth in foster care, youth today need and want a home to feel welcome in, a family to love and protect them and a system to work with foster parents to reunite youth with their families if possible or adopt them when it is not.

When foster parents understand the challenges faced by foster children, are willing to hang in there with boundary pushing, provide normal adolescent experiences and allow youth to voice their interests, desires and concerns about their lives – a youth can not only survive, but also thrive.

While being a foster parent is a lot of work and comes with challenges, a foster parent can make a lifelong difference in the lives of a youth.

Cheri Crossman

Windham