Charell Star is a Brand and Partner Media Manager in the FinTech field, an online journalist with articles penned in media outlets including Newsweek, Business News Daily, Tom’s IT Pro, and many others, as well as a contributor + featured lifestyle, tech, and fashion expert for on-air segments. As a former foster care youth and now advocate, Charell is an appointed Board Member of CASA NYC and City Living NY. Using her life story and knowledge of storytelling, marketing, and fashion/tech innovations, Charell speaks to empower other women to advocate for themselves in negotiations, businesses to tell their unique stories, and audiences to embrace their past to propel their future.
Tell me about what your life experience has taught you?
In life I have learned that we are all capable of being more than one thing at a time. I’m an on-air lifestyle correspondent who tells stories. I’m a former foster care youth who uses my platform to advocate for foster care youth across the nation. I’m a wife, friend, and teammate who works to give my best to those around me. You should be able live a life that excites and fulfills you and owe no apologies for wanting that.
What are some words of advice would you share with children or teens that are currently in Foster Care?
I know how easy it is to feel like you are the only one going through this experience. It is important for you to know that you are not alone and that life does get better. There will come a time when you get to decide how you want to live your life and I hope everything you have survived fuels you to pursue that dream. You deserve to be happy and live a good life. We all do.
Is there a particular moment or memory that stands out for you in your journey?
When I was 6, I woke up to find myself alone with my baby sister. I made breakfast, dropped my baby sister off with a neighbor, and walked to school. After school, I was taken to the home of strangers. I don’t remember their names or where I lived, but I recall the abuse and loneliness I felt there. I remember watching my belongings being thrown into trash bags. I did not want to admit that my mother was in and out of rehab and a father was in jail; It took a long time for me to realize that my time in foster care – like all foster youth – was no fault of my own.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of?
Early on in my career I had a boss change how she treated me after finding out I was in foster care, so I was nervous about sharing my personal story with the world. After one of my early advocacy events, I received an email from a foster care youth who said he was inspired to enroll in college after hearing me speak. More recently, I – along with other advocates – successfully pushed for a moratorium in New York State to pause aging out of foster care youth during the pandemic. Youth were leaving foster care and ending up homeless because there were no housing or jobs available. People forget that to make change you do not have to be the tidal wave; you just have to be brave enough to make a ripple.
What inspires you?
I find inspiration is so many places. My friends, my husband, and my family all inspire me every day to bring all I have to everything I do. I’m also inspired by who I refer to as “the doers” in the world. These are the people who see something wrong and simply get to work on making it better. There are so many people doing good in the lives of foster youth – advocates, foster parents, adoptive parents, mentors, social workers. They inspire me.
What changes do you feel need to be made in the Foster Care system?
There are lots of changes that should be made in the foster care system. The first one is ensuring that youth are not being removed from families simply because they are Black or Brown or poor. Children and youth of color are disproportionately represented in the foster care system nationwide and systemic racism plays a big role in this inequality.
Another change that needs to be made is ensuring youth who are in the system are given the resources to thrive while they are in care and when they age out. This goes beyond being placed in caring homes – free of abuse – and includes being provided on-going therapeutic support and the necessary transitional support to successfully be reunified with their parents, enter an adoptive home, or live independently once they age out of care. Currently, half of foster care youth end up homeless 18 months to two years after aging out. These issues are intertwined.
What are some of the biggest challenges you feel that children coming out of Foster care face?
There’s only three ways to exit foster care: reunification with your family, adoption or aging out of care. Children and youth returning to their parents or being adopted have the challenge of trying to reestablish their lives while dealing with trauma and anxiety from having been removed from their homes in the first place. Youth aging out of care have the challenge of trying to live independent lives, in many cases without having been prepared to do it successfully.
Why is it so important to recognize Foster Care Awareness Month?
Foster care Awareness Month is so important because it brings the needs of the youth and their very existence to the forefront. There are more than 420,000 children and youth in foster care across the country and they are there through no fault of their own. They need us to remove the stigmas and challenges of being in care and give them the opportunity to live happy and successful lives. We owe this to all children – including foster care youth.
Learn more about Charell Star by visiting her website.