During the National Alliance for Grieving Children conference, Dr. Heidi Horsley interviews Maryana Stern of Foster Club and a former foster child in the system. It’s a peer to peer support program, and you need to have been in foster care yourself to participate. Now an advocate, she works to change policies that will improve the experience of foster care and works with children around the world. Another aspect of her work is serving as a mentor and big sister to foster youth who might not otherwise have that experience and support.

Having come from the foster system herself, Stern can connect with youth in a very intimate way. One of the biggest challenges she recalls is losing something—it’s not necessarily the death of a parent. However, it might be the loss of your childhood, losing touch with your siblings if they’re placed in a different foster home, or losing your rights. You are losing someone or something as a foster child. Her advice for foster children is to know that others have been in your shoes.

Empathy Abounds

Stern is now in college. She reflects on what she’s been through and what she has to go through. However, pushing through the tears and hardships is another day and another challenge you’ve overcome. She urges foster youth to not give up and to seek out support where they can. Know that support doesn’t always look like you think it should and it can come in many forms.

Don’t let anything get to you, and try to be the change you want to see. A lot of foster kids don’t graduate, they might get pregnant young, or otherwise aren’t able to achieve their dreams. However, you can be the difference and advocate for younger foster children.

 

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Heidi Horsley

Dr. Heidi Horsley is an international grief expert, licensed psychologist, and social worker. She is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, one of the largest internet grief resources, with over 2 million yearly visitors. She hosts the award-winning Open to Hope cable television show and podcast. Dr. Heidi is an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She serves on the ​National Board of Directors for The Compassionate Friends, the largest peer to peer support organization in the world. She also serves on the National Advisory Board for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS). TAPS has served over 50,000 military families who have suffered a loss. In addition, she serves on the National Advisory Board for the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Foundation, and the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation. Dr. Heidi is on the VIP section of Marquis Who's Who in America, Madison Who's Who, and Who's Who of American Women. Dr. Heidi has co-authored eight books, including; Spouse Loss; Fresh Grief; Inspirational Stories for Handling the Holidays After Loss; Inspirational Stories of Healing After Loss; Real Men Do Cry; A Quarterbacks Inspiring Story of Tackling Depression & Surviving Suicide; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance; and Signs and Hope From Heaven. She has appeared on the ABC television show 20/20, has been interviewed by numerous media outlets, and has been a guest on hundreds of radio shows as well as quoted in dozens of media publications, including the Metro World News, Washington Post, Time Magazine, Newsday, Money Magazine, and New York Daily News. Dr. Heidi is also the author of numerous articles and academic book chapters. Dr. Heidi gives keynotes, presentations, and workshops throughout the country, and teaches continuing education workshops for health care professionals on support following trauma and tragedy. For 10 yrs., Dr. Heidi worked as a co-investigator for the FDNY-Columbia University Family Guidance Program; a study which looked at traumatic loss in families of firefighters killed in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Through this 9/11 study, Dr. Heidi provided ongoing intervention and follow-up to firefighter widows and their children, and facilitated groups for bereaved siblings. In addition, Dr. Heidi supervised the school social work staff at Harlem Democracy Charter Schools in NYC for four years. Dr. Heidi's early career included work in a variety of clinical settings, including; Manhattan Psychiatric Center, California Pacific Medical Center Psychiatry Dept., University of San Francisco Mental Health Clinic, St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Psychiatry Dept., and Hope Haven Residential Treatment Center in New Orleans. Her doctoral dissertation was on the sudden death of a sibling. Her academic credentials include a doctorate in Psychology (PsyD) from the University of San Francisco; a Masters degree in social work (LMSW) from Columbia University, and a Masters degree in mental health counseling (MS) from Loyola University, in New Orleans. Dr. Heidi splits her time between NYC and Tucson AZ.

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