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Emancipation: One Young Man Leaves Foster Care On His Own Terms

Posted originally on Youth Radio:


Walking into court for my very last time as a foster youth, I felt like I was getting a divorce from a system that I’ve been in a relationship with almost my entire life.

It’s bittersweet because I’m losing guaranteed stipends for food and housing, as well as access to my social workers and my lawyer. But on the other hand, I’m relieved to finally get away from a system that ultimately failed me on its biggest promise. That one day it would find me a family who would love me.

“Good afternoon, let’s go on the record,” said Judge Shawna Schwarz. “This is line six, the matter of Nole Anaya.”

“No-El” I said, correcting the judge’s mispronunciation of my name.

“Noel Anaya, thank you.”

I asked her, “Have you guys been saying it wrong for 21 years?”

“You know what, everyone pronounces it differently,” the judge told me. “Thank you though, I’m glad to know it’s Noel.”

Little things, like when my judge mispronounced my name, served as a constant reminder that, “Hey, I’m just a number.” I often came away feeling powerless and anonymous in the foster care system.

In most states, foster youth age out of the foster care system when they turn 18. But 23 states have opted to allow young people to remain in the system longer and continue to access support. California is one of those places. I recently turned 21 and got exceptional permission to bring a recorder with me for my final court hearing before aging out. 

To find out what happened in the rest of the hearing, read the full story here, on the Youth Radio website. Youth Radio is an America’s Promise Alliance and Citi Foundation Youth Opportunity Fund community partner.