Contributors

Contributors

Born into the world with drugs in his system, Kevin Y. Brown, started very early in life overcoming obstacles. Due to his mother’s drug addiction, he was placed into the notorious California foster care system at the young age of 9 months where he remained until he emancipated at 18. Primarily raised in one of Northern California’s worst neighborhoods, Kevin had to decide what kind of man he was going to grow up to be early on.

Progressively learning his potential through the eyes of mentors and peers Kevin started to understand himself and the experience he wanted others to have when they were around him. Finding his Brand Within has led Kevin to join the 3% of foster care children who graduate college as well as being a college athlete, on air-host for MTV networks and being a Fashion Marketer at Parish Nation clothing company in New York City.

Today Kevin is the president of Legacy Thinking Labs a leading public speaking and consulting firm located in New York City, which specializes in helping companies, students and professionals identify their personal brand in order to increase productivity, self esteem and positive momentum towards their goals.

Kevin is also the author of “10 Ways Anyone Can Graduate College DEBT-FREE: A Guide to Post College FREEDOM” a comprehensive guide that shares the strategies that led him to have zero college debt and a positive college experience. He has spoken across the nation to thousands of students, professionals, parents, and policy leaders live. Whether presenting to students or the staff who motivate them Kevin is sure to bring clarity to inspire and create measurable goals to maximize potential and resources

Kimalee Finelli resides in central Florida where she lives  with her husband and their two young sons.

Kimalee has been enjoying writing since an early age of 13, and has studied with the Long Ridge Writer's group. She is currently working on her first novel.

Kimberly Raff is a stay at home mom building a business through DoTerra essential oils and mentoring others. She has been married for 10 years and has two amazing children ages 16 and 7. She is often asked for parenting advice and loves to share insight with friends and family. During her down time, Kimberly has a passion for learning new things, from crocheting and scrapbooking, to gardening and raising chickens. She and her husband purchased their first home together in 2012 where they have a dog, cat, snake, chameleon, turtle, salt water fish tank, freshwater pond, and 12 chickens. From city life to farm life, Kimberly is enjoying the life she has chosen and those who are in it. She continues to build a relationship with her mother and siblings. Currently Kimberly is a CASA volunteer in the state of Colorado and has a passion for ensuring foster youth have a voice and know that they matter as well as educating the community about foster youth alumni. If you have questions or would like to get in touch with Kimberly you can contact her through her website: www.kimberlyraff.com or follow her on her Facebook page: www.facebook.com/fromfostercaretofosterhope/

Kristopher Sharp is a 27-year-old native Texan. He formally served as a legislative aide for Senator Patty Murray and was a congressional fellow for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus in the U.S House of Representatives. As a former foster child and homeless youth, Kristopher has spent his entire professional career working to improve public policies affecting children, youth, and families. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Houston-Downtown and a Master of Public Administration from Texas Southern University.

Kristyn Peck is the Chief Executive Officer of West Michigan Partnership for Children (WMPC), a nonprofit organization piloting a performance-based model for foster care that is the first of its kind in the state through a contract with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). As the first employee, Ms. Peck led all start-up activities necessary to launch WMPC as a nonprofit child placing agency. Ms. Peck motivates a high-performing leadership team and provides overall direction to 19 staff; oversees an annual budget of approximately $35 million; decisions around the placement and care of more than 800 children in foster care in Kent County at any given time; and the continuous quality improvement of more than 40 subcontracted private providers of child welfare services.

Ms. Peck moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan in April 2017 for this role after working for more than thirteen years in human services on behalf of unaccompanied refugee and immigrant children and victims of human trafficking in Washington, D.C. Ms. Peck earned an M.S.W. from the University of Maryland-Baltimore and a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Maryland-College Park.

Mr. Adams was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1950. He grew up in the quagmire of the Michigan Foster Care System from birth. He was finally sent to and graduated from, the famed "Father Flanagan's Boys Home...better known as "Boys Town, Nebraska. His education was furthered at Midland Lutheran College. He has had a professional career in government, nonprofit, academia and private industry. Mr Adams is a strong advocate and a frequent contributor to Foster Focus.

Latasha Ball, MBA, has more than ten years of experience in marketing, public relations and social media. She is currently the PR/Operations Manager for Consortium Media + PR, a full service public relations agency in Ventura, California where she oversees the public relations efforts for a wide variety of clients, but it’s her work with youth in foster care that she finds most fulfilling personally and professionally.

Leah Leason is a wife, writer, and foster care alumni. Growing up throughout the foster care system in Minnesota has inspired her to write and share her experiences and life. She hopes to inspire others to speak up about their experiences, break social stigmas surrounding foster care, and shed some light on an often neglected group of people. You can find her blog at www.pronouncedleah.blogspot.com 

Lesia Knudsen is a foster parent of teens, parent coach for foster parents of teens and coaches at-risk youth. She has over 25 years of experience working with families and teens and is an independent contractor for Marin County’s Child and Family Services, providing coaching for Resource Families and youth in foster care.

Lesia is the creator of “Managing Expectations”, a webinar now being used as part of Marin County’s Resource Family Certification process. The webinar is based on her book, Life in the Foster Lane, Practical Insights on Fostering Teens, which was a number 1 best seller on Amazon. She is also an international workshop and conference speaker

Leslie Brownlee is a sophomore at Trinity Washington University, studying psychology and English. My goal and dream is to become a counselor for children and young adults in transition within the foster care system. I want to be involved in helping them understand their stories and how to use what their past has taught them in their present circumstance of having to navigate through the unique world of Foster Care and life after it. In my free time, I enjoy watching King of The Hill, boxing training at Champion boxing for Fitness, and being a nanny for my sweet Rose Rubenstein.

Leslie Class is a business professional and trainer who teaches programs with a focus centered in patient communication, civility and clinical care for the allied healthcare professional. Her company, Learning Curve Career Center (LCC), specializes in providing quality and affordable training for aspiring healthcare students, and healthcare professionals worldwide. LCC works collaboratively with organizations, and administrators in public and private sector, to provide these training programs as a resource to community members nationally. LCC has a programmatic concept of providing resources to the public. Leslie is a Medical Assistant with 20 years experience in the field, including, practical experience, business management, instruction, and program administration. She has been training students in the fields of Allied Healthcare since approximately 2000.

A popular instructor and mentor, Leslie has worked on hundreds of programs in healthcare, bravely initiated her own national workforce initiative, is fearless in the arena of self-promotion, and entrepreneurial aspirations. She has had numerous articles and book features about her work. She is well loved by corporate clients, and industry professionals. She has faced and overcome many personal struggles, survived difficult adversity, and become an advocate for helping others in need. She finds personal fulfillment by contributing regularly to different communities and residents and established Learning Curve Career Center (LCC) in 2007.

Leslie Gross is director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, an effort of the Annie E. Casey Foundation to support policies and practices to improve outcomes for teenagers and young adults who have experienced foster care.

Liz Hunter is a Social Worker, Foster Alum, Adoptee, Foster & Adoptive Parent, Writer, & Public Speaker. She is the upcoming author of a memoir chronicling her 15 year journey to adoption. Her degree specializations are Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, & Criminal Justice.

She worked as a foster/adoptive parent trainer for the state of IL for four years. Currently, serves on the board of Children’s Home & Aid and the Restore Network and also runs a blog called Foster Noise/Adopt Peace. She uses this blog to elevate the voices of the real life heroes and survivors of the foster care system.

Loren Michaels Harris, a Motivational Speaker and recording artist resides in Naperville, Illinois.  Loren shares his story of having survived 5 years within the Michigan foster care system after his adopted mother unexpectedly passed away when Loren was only 10 years old. Over the next 5 years, Loren experienced in total 22 mothers if one were to include his birth and adoptive mothers.  Loren feels that by sharing his story he not only has been able to heal many of the wounds relating to his own low self-esteem and the shame of foster care, but in turn...the wounds of other survivors as well.  Today Loren shares his stories with audiences across America, striving to uplift, motivate, and inspire wherever he is invited.  Loren's first single from his album "No Fences" is currently available on Amazon.com, itunes, and cdbaby, and a portion of the proceeds are to benefit The Orlando Victims Fund.  To learn more about what is going on in the life of Loren Michaels Harris, please visit www.lorenmichaelsharris.com 

Luke Kliewer lives in Hastings Nebraska with his wife and 4 children. Luke is a professional speaker and has spoken to thousands about the struggles of foster care and foster parenting.  With a background that includes being a former foster youth, adopted child, foster parent and adoptive parent Luke brings every angle of the foster care system to his presentations. Luke, and his wife, also direct the local Royal Family Kids Camp in Hastings. His website is ragetoroyalty.com and you can contact him at luke@ragetoroyalty.com.

After being placed in foster care at age 15 and aging out at 18, Lynn Tonini went on to earn a BA from Gettysburg College in Psychology. She worked over 12 years at Milton Hershey School (MHS), a residential K-12 school for at-risk children in PA, where she developed an interest in training and development. She earned a Master’s of Education from the Pennsylvania State University while at MHS, and spent a few years working on the team that provided training for the Houseparents. She then moved into a career in corporate training for employers and clients in a variety of industries. During that time, she spent five years running an awards program that recognized corporate training organizations from around the world for their successful employee learning strategies. She began Aging Out Institute in 2010, and continues to focus on broadening its services and impact. 

I am a former youth in care. (Went into care at 9, became a permanent ward- aged out of the system at 21) Advocate for child welfare and First Nations issues since the age of 16. I am now 24 years old. From Wikwemikong First Nations in northern Ontario.

I am Ojibway and Acadian. I graduated from Canadore College in 2013: Journalism- Print and Broadcast diploma. Currently in my second year at St. Thomas University completing a Bachelors of Arts degree with a double major: Communications and Public Policy & Political Science.

Been a member of various government and non-government working groups to try to change child welfare policies. Been a part of several panels in different levels of government and non-government. Involvement with the Canada’s National Youth in Care Network (2010) and an International Youth in Care Network- attended the International Youth in Care Summit in 2012.

Member of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies groups: YouthCAN, and YPAAG "Our Voice, Our Turn" Project (Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth’s office): co-chair of youth-led hearings, co-author of many reports to government. Member of the Blueprint Working Group for Fundamental Change in the child welfare system in Ontario. Member of New Brunswick's Youth in Care Network (Partner's for Youth): partnered with social development in information sessions for foster parents. help facilitate discussions/ communication lead/  MC Youth in Care Summit. Member of The Strategy for the Prevention of Harm for Children and Youth in New Brunswick (New Brunswick Provincial Children and Youth Advocate's Office)  Have been involved with the New Brunswick’s Adoption Foundation Coordinated the Redress Project on university campus to spread awareness about the missing and murdered First Nations women in Canada. Currently: Research assistant with St. Thomas’s University School of Social Work. Project focuses on research about young women that have aged out of the child welfare system and where they are today. How they define what success is, and what would have made their lives better.

Created a documentary regarding Urban First Nations communities as a youth journalist. Through YouthCAN I was a communications intern & assistant coordinator of annual youth in care conference

City Living NY is dedicated to helping youth aging out of the foster care system to achieve their personal goals and reach for their dreams. We provide stability by giving clients urgently needed essential household goods like pots and bedspreads - in order to make their first apartment a home. We continue to be there for youth as hands-on mentors. We empower our clients to become stable and self-sufficient by making referrals to effective counseling, education, and job training programs. City Living NY is a unique, holistic after-care program, working with our clients to overcome complex and varied challenges in order to have the same opportunities as any young adult on the road to independence. When a youth ages out of foster care, City Living NY's work is just beginning. 

Martina, a native German, based in NYC has been a cinematographer, director and producer shooting award-winning documentaries and features for over a decade. Saving Face the 2012 Academy Award Winner for Short Documentary earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Cinematography in 2013. Her recent work includes The Eagle Huntress, Watchers of the Sky, Through A Lens Darkly and Hot Coffee. Her directorial debut Spring in Awe won the Media Awareness Award at the Media That Matters Film Festival in 2004 and the Best Editing Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival and was part of PBS’ New York Reel the same year. Her second film Aliens Among Us played theatrical at IDA’s DocuWeek, 2009 and on numerous festivals.

While pursuing her passion for documentaries, Radwan devotes her time and resources to travel to Mongolia, where she started an NPO in 2008, with the goal to rebuild street children’s lives through education and entrepreneurship.

Matt Doughty was born into a chaotic life. A mother whose drug addiction led to negligence and third-degree burns. Pair that with an absent divorced father led Matt to a series of poor decisions. At age fourteen Matt had been through so much he fell victim to street drugs and ran away. Matt would go on to spend the next 8 years as a ward of the state. From foster homes to group homes. From juvenile placements to county jail and prison!

After Matt’s release from prison in 2000 he was soon after well on his way back to jail or death. Then something happened that changed his life forever. Matt got control of the wheel of his life and was able to clean up, become a fire fighter, first responder, presenter, trainer, and public speaker.

Matt now speaks to foster parents thanking them for the love and care he received. Matt speaks to at-risk foster youth. Matt struggled with ADHD as a child and relates to the struggles the kids are faced with. Matt speaks to inmates getting ready to parole from prison giving them tools to be successful. Matt also speaks to firefighters about PTSD; a depression condition, that if not treated can have an adverse effect on others and their families.

Matt made it his dream and mission to share his story with the foster world as a way to give back to such a broken system. Matt can be reached for speaking engagements at chaus23@yahoo.com Doughty’s Inspirational Training LLC, also @fosteredbyfaith on Facebook or online at www.firefighterswithptsd.org

Matt Rosen is Executive Director of Foster Youth in Action, a national nonprofit that is building a movement of youth leaders and their allies to transform foster care policies and the lives they impact.  Matt brings more than 16 years of leadership and management experience in community youth development and youth civic engagement. Most recently, Matt served as Vice President of Programs for the San Francisco-based Youth Leadership Institute, leading the organization’s efforts to deepen its work in youth organizing and youth-led policy advocacy. Matt is an experienced program designer and trainer, as well as the author of several publications, toolkits, and curricula in the areas of youth development, youth philanthropy, and youth-led policy advocacy.  He attained a Masters in Social Work and Urban Planning from the University of Michigan and started his career in housing and community development in Detroit.  When he’s not raising money, writing emails, or talking on the phone, he likes to spend time with his family and friends and take an occasional bike ride.

MelissaRoshan (MelRo) Potter is a model, fierce advocate for foster-youth, national spokeswoman for Children's Rights, speaker, and mother of two.

Merissa Hatch, a writer and art teacher from South Central Washington, was a foster kid in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. She is a regular contributor on Medium. In 2015, she won the 2014 Ekone Youth in Media Award for her writing and art. Merissa teaches summer drawing classes and makes and sells crochet toys to raise money for local foster kids Christmas gifts until she is able to become a foster parent.

Michael Jennis has worked for the same company for 33 years as a Controller/HR Manager. He spent his time in foster care from age 5-18.

Michael has begun the task of writing a book, He hopes through his advocacy and book to raise awareness about current youth in foster care.

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