National Center for Youth Law


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Joshua Speaks
by Joshua Speaks

I grew up in foster care entering the system when I was 3 years old. From the first moment I can remember, it was a very bad experience. There was a lot of shuffling around from placement to placement. I was diagnosed with mental symptoms that where not even accurate. Forcing drugs in my system to correct behaviors that where just common for a child my age especially for the kind of trauma I had experienced.

I was told I was ADHD, ADD, bipolar, manic depressive, had reactive attachment disorder, and PTSD by the time I was seven. The list was as extensive as they wanted it to be because there was no one to check them on their claims. The developmental issues that followed where endless: Stunted development in my body growth and mass; impaired mental cognition; and lack of awareness of my surroundings and of my body. I even had a hard time telling when my body made contact with anything around me.

As I got older I started to worry that I was not going to be a well-functioning adult. Then panic hit me that I was not the only one that going through this in Missouri, let alone the nation. The Department of Family Services as it was called at the time – the ever changing name hides their failures and shows they are well aware that they are putting kids in danger – was very uninformed about how to properly handle the cares and needs of a child undergoing major changes not only in themselves but the world around them.

I was contacted by Children’s Rights and NCYL because I was speaking out very clearly against this. With their help and resources, I was able not only to say more about what is going on, but what I was saying reached far more people. I am grateful for their help and their extensive knowledge in so many areas of children’s lives and needs. Their understanding of the pharmaceutical world and the dangers it poses to children. The desire to help children without the massive use of pharmaceuticals while understanding that some children may very well need them. By working on the best way to prescribe the right drugs without inhibiting children’s mental and physical development is of the utmost importance for these organizations.

Children’s Rights and NCYL share a mission that promotes the knowledge and understanding of an empowered child. By that I mean a child with the developmental understanding of not only what has happened to them but also why its happening and how to go about dealing with that to ensure the greatest chance for success in life. Having lived under a state agency whose message is “fear us and comply or else” to working with advocates whose message is “ask and speak out and we will help” gives me hope for the future of foster children.

To know they are in capable and well informed hands is the greatest hope these children not only have but need. Hope and understanding are the most important tools for children that have faced desperation and trauma. Hope is what they need to make there tomorrow better and to improve not only themselves but their surroundings and to become better members of society.

Read more about the work Children’s Rights and NCYL are doing in Missouri.