I AM SOMEBODY: Raising Hope and Awareness for Children in Foster Care

What if a public awareness campaign changed the foster care narrative from hopeless to hopeful, and from worthless to worth it?

Photo of Melanie Gilbert
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

I want my children to grow up in a world that respects their past, honors their life journey and believes in their future. All children deserve to be valued in their communities. Our society is learning to embrace children who were previously marginalized. Campaigns like the It Gets Better Project (http://www.itgetsbetter.org/) challenge stigmas and stereotypes of LGBTQ youth, replacing those damaging narratives with stories that speak instead to their sense of self, purpose and belonging. Numerous surveys (https://davethomasfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/DTFA-HarrisPoll) show that the American public still questions the wellbeing for at least one group of children - those who call the foster care system home. The perception is that these children are broken, unlovable and unadoptable. As a mom to awesome siblings from foster care, I felt this damaging dynamic had to be changed - not just for the wellbeing of my children, but for the wellbeing of the 400,000+ children currently in the care system, 100,000+ of whom need a family right now. I designed the "I AM SOMEBODY" public awareness campaign - featuring kids from foster care - to start a conversation that kids in care are worth it and deserve a loving family. Ultimately, I hope the campaign speaks so directly to people that they will either consider growing their family through foster care adoption or be more supportive of foster care issues. "If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French, Caucasian)



Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Massachusetts

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Massachusetts

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Right now, "I AM SOMEBODY" is creating impact in the virtual universe of Twitter and Facebook. "I AM SOMEBODY" launched as a social media project during National Adoption Month in November 2014. The response was phenomenal (tracking showed global reach) with the campaign generating millions of impressions and thousands of engagements on Twitter. The cross-sector support for I AM SOMEBODY convinced me that the public was ready for a message of hope and change about foster care.

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

"If kids don't know possibilities, they can't dream" - Justice Sonia Sotomayer The family is where we learn to dream, embrace possibilities and plan our future. If we agree that children's wellbeing starts in the family, then it is vital for the 400,000 children in the foster care system to find a place to call home. But the reality is that there are more waiting children than available families. I believe this is the sad result of a damaging narrative of foster kids as broken, unlovable and unadoptable. The "I AM SOMEBODY" awareness campaign elevates the foster care narrative from hopeless to hopeful, and from worthless to worth it. Their wellbeing becomes our wellbeing - a positive feedback loop of belonging. Public awareness campaigns are an effective tool for social change. I'm leveraging that tradition with "I AM SOMEBODY"to find families for kids in care.

Mission Statement

Family is the place in which a child nurtures their sense of self, purpose and belonging. "I AM SOMEBODY" is a public awareness campaign that changes the foster care narrative from hopeless to hopeful, and from worthless to worth it so that waiting children can find their "forever" family.

The Inspiration

"I AM SOMEBODY" is more than a foster care campaign, it's a human rights campaign. 

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This campaign was inspired by the "I AM A MAN" Memphis sanitation workers strike of 1968. Those men weren't just protesting the lack of their civil rights, they were protesting their lack of human rights. I still find that a powerful message of change.

My work is also inspired by the marriage equality work of the Human Rights Campaign.

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Awareness, awareness, awareness.

If people are aware, they are inspired.

When they are inspired, they engage.

When they engage, they are enabled.

When they are enabled, they act.

When they act, children in care find a loving family.

Aware. Inspired. Engaged. Enabled. Action.


The Problem

There are more than 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. Almost 110,000 of these children - enough to fill the University of Michigan's "Big House" football stadium - need a family right now.

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Research has shown that growing up without a loving, stable family leads to a range of developmental delays, social-emotional problems and a damaged sense of self worth.

A Solution

The 2013 Adoption Attitudes Survey by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption found that, "There is a long-standing correlation between a high opinion of the foster care system and the consideration of adoption from foster care. The opposite is true as well."

Changing the negative foster care narrative may change these children's current and future wellbeing. Elevating an affirming foster care awareness campaign may encourage more families to be the future now for a child who has been left behind. 

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What We Do

The "I AM SOMEBODY" campaign leverages the power of social media, plus traditional publicity channels, to amplify a positive foster care message.

How We Do It

Relentless public awareness messaging that children in foster care are "somebody" who belong in a loving, stable home. 

When we spark a foster care revolution in this country, we can change futures now. 

Why We Do It: Advocacy and Direct Action

So, why a public awareness campaign? Why not put much-needed funds into direct  child and family support and services? 

Advocacy/outreach is a process distinct from direct action-based support, yet each depend upon the other to be successful. If you can't reach your target families (advocacy), you can't support them (action) and bring them the services they require. 

The "if we build it, they will come" thinking, though, drives the funding decisions of many direct services providers, but it's an incomplete model of children's wellbeing. Social support agencies, just like for-profit companies, need to brand their "products" which in this case, are the children in their care.

Another obstacle to child welfare embracing a public awareness campaign is the  thinking is that families are more likely to engage the system if post-adoption support and services are available. This mindset was on full display in the Ashoka #Children'sWellbeing Twitter chat.

Yet, in Britain, and many other European countries, post adoption services, including competitive pay packages, are provided to foster care adoptive families. Despite these generous supports and a range of choices, these agencies still struggle to find families for waiting children. 

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Direct and support services are not the only answer. Forward-thinking child welfare leaders, who see their nonprofit as providing a service (where their client is the child first, then the foster-adopt family), recognize that a total rebranding of foster care is required to engage families for waiting children.


In 2013, The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption released the results of their Adoption Attitudes Survey which found that "while the perception of foster care adoption has improved, Americans – even those who are considering foster care adoption – still have a negative impression of the process, the costs, and potential behavioral and medical issues with children in foster care." 

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CEO Rita Soronen said, “The survey is a clear call to action. Armed with this information, we will continue to share real-life stories of successful foster care adoptions and dispel prevailing myths at every opportunity about the children available for adoption from foster care. We will not rest until every child in the United States has a nurturing and permanent home.”

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Other Campaigns

The biggest national player for foster care adoption awareness is AdoptUsKids, an information gateway funded by the Children's Bureau of the US Health and Human Services, through their "Myths" and "Perfect Parent" campaigns. They are closely followed by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, with their "When I First Met My Child" and "I Am Not" campaigns. 

To date, none of these efforts have moved the needle on the number of waiting children. I believe that's because these campaigns pitch their message to the perspective of the adoptive parent versus framing it through the eyes of the children from foster care. Additionally, these laudable efforts were insufficiently promoted,  failing to break through to the public domain outside of the existing foster care community. 

When foster children, according to the DTFA survey, are still perceived as broken, unlovable and adoptable, changing the narrative of the parents' perspective is like putting the horse before the cart. A national campaign like "I AM SOMEBODY" speaks to the child's worth from the child's perspective using foster-adopt children to convey that message. 

The national Heart Gallery portrait project is another unsuccessful awareness campaign. Though hugely popular with adoption agencies, and heavily subsidized by local and national partners, this awareness effort yields disappointing results with barely more than a 1% return on engagement. The portrayals of waiting children without a storytelling context - reduces children in foster care to a static, impersonal and desperate status. Plus, it's a dated, mall-driven concept (a valid, if limited, space to intercept people) that isn't leveraging the shareable, dynamic environment of social media.

A New Model: Why "I AM SOMEBODY" (IAS) Works

If we agree that having a family is a basic human right, then we should all be outraged that 400,000 children are growing up in a care system and not in a loving, stable family.

IAS challenges the myths, stereotypes and misinformation that children in foster care are broken, unwanted and unadoptable - by putting them in the "picture".

IAS raises awareness  from a place of our love and their self worth - by connecting their wellbeing with empowerment.

IAS portrays children from the foster-adopt space in an authentic way - by involving them in their storytelling idea.

IAS invites the viewer to really "see" the child behind the label - by normalizing childhood without demonizing their foster care reality.

Awareness, awareness, awareness. If people aren't aware, they can't engage. Let's engage them together by raising this much-need awareness of children waiting for a family.   

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Other

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Child and Family Services

If you chose "other," please share the sector you work within here:

Foster care / child welfare

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Idea (poised to launch)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

"I AM SOMEBODY" for foster care is a shareable, relateable awareness campaign. Based on Twitter analytics, a social media rollout for National Adoption Day 2014, reached a global audience and was viewed by millions, a majority of whom were not associated with traditional foster care communities. Two take-aways 1) a positive foster care message resonates 2) awareness increases engagement Through Twitter and Facebook, people who had seen the campaign reached out to me for foster care adoption information. I'm just a private citizen. Imagine the impact if this message was amplified and directed. Children's wellbeing is enhanced by belonging to a family. 400,000 children need families. Let's go find them families - right now.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

"I AM SOMEBODY" continues to encourage engagement by challenging the damaging narrative of foster kids as broken, unlovable and unadoptable. Awareness is measurable through social media analytics and metrics. Engagement (asking for foster care adoption info) that translates into action (adopting a child from foster care) is only anecdotally available at this time in the "poised to launch" phase. The majority of public and private child welfare agencies focus on budgeting to direct services such as training and events, and staff and support programs like adoption parties and information resources for families. Perhaps that's why the field is wide open for "I AM SOMEBODY" - no one is doing it because no one wants to invest in socially-responsible consciousness raising for children in foster care.

Organization Type

  • nonprofit/NGO/citizen sector

Annual Budget

  • $50k - $100k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Great question. To date, foster care agencies at both the public/private level, are reluctant to allocate resources from direct service programs to a marketing campaign. Short of founding a national nonproift (opening access to grants and corporate donations) I believe the public citizen crowd sourcing platforms could be an effective fundraising route. Foster care issues are rising to the national level making broader engagement possible.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

The unique value proposition to the "I AM SOMEBODY" campaign is its portrayal of kids from foster care in a first-person narrative way with positive, affirming and powerful imagery and language. This approach not only challenges the negative perceptions of kids from foster care as broken, unlovable and unadoptable, but it also challenges it with their voice. They speak to their wellbeing. Shockingly, except for the out-dated Heart Gallery project, there are no agencies or organizations currently doing a large-scale foster care public relations campaign. The field is wide open.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

The most important or promising shift in foster care is that people are starting to talk about it. Positive foster care messages are trending, lately, including Fmr. President Bill Clinton and other speakers at the Democratic Convention. Gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles and Olympic footballer Carlin Isles showed that kids from foster care can be champions. https://www.ispot.tv/ad/Almm/mini-usa-us-olympic-games-defy-labels-feat-serena-williams Imagine a world where families compete to foster care adopt, and the idea of 400,000 children waiting in care will seem cruel and unjust.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Twitter

Program Design Clarity

Unlike the other Children's Wellbeing entries, "I AM SOMEBODY" is an advocacy/awareness campaign and not a direct services project. Think of the impact of Autism Speaks, Ice-Bucket Challenge and the Red-Nose campaigns to raise awareness of their social issue. My day-to-day work is designed like any other human rights campaign: Changing hearts and minds with a powerful, empathetic and inspiring message.

Community Leadership

I promote the hell out of "I AM SOMEBODY", and actively solicit feedback from stakeholders across the foster care spectrum, as well as from outlying communities. This outreach is partly evidenced by my 50 evaluations, 26 comments and 47 likes. As a social media and public relations project, I AM SOMEBODY hasn't yet been "means" tested where feedback would emerge related to market reach resulting in family placement of youth from foster care.

Age of Children Impacted

  • 0-1.5
  • 1.5 -3
  • 3 - 5
  • 6 - 12
  • 12+

Spread Strategies

Twitter was a toe-dipping experiment to see if the public was ready to accept positive imagery of kids from foster care. The resounding answer: yes. It's time to bring in partners, sponsors and visionary backers to fund a nationwide campaign for foster care awareness. I'm also storyboarding "Foster Futures" another awareness campaign that targets the prospective adoptive parent and which complements the "I AM SOMEBODY" child-centered message.

Reflect on how your work helps children to thrive. How are you cultivating children’s sense of self, belonging, and purpose through your model?

I think it is imperative to build a sense of belonging through empowerment. As an "I AM SOMEBODY" supporter said, "The stories kids are told about themselves make such a huge impression." We've seen the impact that organizing around "Black Lives Matter" is having on the race and policing conversation in this country. Let's have a conversation about finding families for children in foster care using "I AM SOMEBODY" as the launching off place.

Leadership Story

I started my activism journey as a college campus organizer for "Take Back the Night" marches. From there, I worked for the NOW on the Sexual Violence Against Women Task Force, as well as the annual National March for Women's Lives. These projects schooled me in the art of using public activism to raise awareness and encourage engagement. I bring those lessons, plus my background as a former staff writer for the Detroit News, to my work. My defining life moment, though, was becoming a mom to siblings from foster care. I do this work for my kids, and for all the kids still in foster care.

What awards or honors has the project received? (Optional)

Using "I AM SOMEBODY" campaign as their theme, Cambridge Family and Children Services, a MA-based foster care nonprofit challenged donors at their annual gala to "Be SOMEBODY" raising a record-breaking $350,000 for their foster care adoption programs. This fundraising sum validated the message.

Organization's Twitter Handle


Organization’s Facebook Page (URL)


Evaluation results

50 evaluations so far

1. Relevance: Does this project seem to help children (ages 0 to 12 years) develop a strong sense of self, belonging, and purpose?

5 - Yes, this is great! The project lays out a strong, compelling case for how its model nurtures children’s wellbeing. - 76%

4 - It seems like a good fit, and the model talks explicitly about children’s wellbeing. - 14%

3 - I think so. The project seems related to children’s wellbeing, but the logic is vague. - 6%

2 - Not sure. The project doesn’t have much to do with wellbeing, or it doesn’t give enough information. - 4%

1 - Nope, this project definitely doesn’t fit the challenge brief (e.g., It doesn’t help kids younger than 12, isn’t in the U.S., etc.) - 0%

2. Innovation: Does this project tackle children’s wellbeing from a new angle?

5 - I loved this! The project describes a novel model that addresses important cultural or systemic barriers. - 58%

4 - This is pretty cool. The project is addressing an important problem in a new or compelling way. - 24%

3 - I feel like there’s something there, but I want more details about what makes it distinctive. - 8%

2 - It’s a good project, but I’ve seen others like it before. - 8%

1 - It was confusing or hard to tell what it made it different. - 2%

3. Social Impact: What is this project’s potential for creating positive social impact?

5 - Lots of potential. This project is achieving impressive results, and it’s growing quickly. It could absolutely inspire changes in the ways we approach caring for kids nationally, across sectors (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 46%

4 - Pretty good potential. This project demonstrates significant positive impact so far, and it could scale regionally or nationally one day and fundamentally change how a system operates (e.g. childcare, healthcare, education). - 34%

3 - Budding potential. This project is creating local impact, but it would take a few adjustments before it could scale. - 12%

2 - Some potential. This project demonstrates some initial positive impact, but it would require major changes before it could scale. - 6%

1 - Limited potential. This project has great intentions, but it looks like it does not include key drivers of a shift towards children’s wellbeing. - 2%

4. Overall, how do you feel about this idea?

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 55.1%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 26.5%

3 - I think the idea is great, but it needs some work before it moves onto the next round. - 10.2%

2 - I liked it fine but preferred others. - 4.1%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. Needs significant revisions. - 4.1%

5. Offer some feedback. Where should this participant spend some time revising?

DEFINING THE PROBLEM. Make sure to articulate the root causes or main barriers of the social issue your project addresses. (Founding Story, Problem, Solution). - 4.2%

CLARITY OF MODEL. Make sure to mention (a.) the beneficiary, b) the main activities, and c) how those activities drive social impact. Keep it streamlined! - 37.5%

MARKETPLACE. Make sure to research other players in this space and articulate how this project is different. I didn’t get a complete sense of how this project compares to others. - 29.2%

IMPACT POTENTIAL. Make sure to use specific numbers to describe what your project has achieved so far! And consider how you might scale the model or its insights, through partnerships, trainings, or franchising. - 62.5%

WRITING STYLE. Try to stay concise and make it vivid. Avoid jargon. - 29.2%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 100%

Attachments (1)


An example of why direct services and support to foster-adopt families aren't enough to address the waiting children crisis. Despite offering extensive support services to foster-adopt families, agencies in Europe struggle to find families for their clients - the foster children. I believe this is because the negative perceptions of children in foster care is an unchallenged narrative. I AM SOMEBODY is a public awareness campaign that offers a vision that kids from foster care are worth it.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Karla Horn

Your ideas and motivation continue to inspire.  Bravo on building this amazing project that I know has already made a huge difference in many lives.

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Ms. Karla Horn!

You are the best!  Thanks to your support, we're raising awareness - and the roof - for kids in foster care.

XO - Melanie and family

Photo of Carissa Purnell

We work closely with foster youth in my place of work and I am constantly in search of a program with the love and self worth this can provide to the little ones we serve. Often times here in the schools we group every student together by grade, reading level, or age, but forget there is additional piece many of our foster youth deal with, and in a community of color like mine it gets silenced. Thank you for bringing awareness and giving every student the chance to be a superhero :)

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Hi there, Carissa:

I love your line "giving every student the chance to be a superhero." Exactly! Someone tweeted to me that "the stories kids are told about themselves make such a huge impression." It's important to make marginalized, traumatized and orphaned kids feel like they are somebody.

Congrats to you on your group on their Pioneer status. Best of luck with the next round.

And thanks again for the shout out.

Best - Melanie

Photo of Daralyn Gomm Nicholson

The numbers are staggering! These children are somebody and they deserve a loving foster home & parents. Thanks for shedding a light through your campaign 

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Hi Daralyn,

Thanks for the great feedback.

I feel like the cares and concerns of children in foster care are ready to rise to the surface - that the public is not only going to take notice, but also become engaged in the conversation about the wellbeing of children in care. It would be great if I Am SOMEBODY could be part of that convo and also help lead it.

You can check out more of my foster care awareness work on http://melanieinboston.com/ As a complement to I Am SOMEBODY, I am working on a follow-up awareness campaign called Foster Futures, which pitches to the perspective of potential foster adoption parents.

The numbers are staggering. It's time to rebrand foster care for the 400,000+ kids in out-of-home placement, 100,000+ of whom need a family right now.

Thanks again for your support.


Photo of Jane Arney

Love your idea! Best of luck!

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Good Morning, Jane!

Thank you for your happy feedback.

Not only do the marginalized in our society lack access to basic services, they lack access to the means to publicize their lack of enfranchisement. This is true with our incarcerated and mental health populations, but it is especially true for our children.

Children who grow up in safe, loving homes, with regular dental and medical care, and attending schools in well-regarded communities, have lots of safety checks and nets to both protect and support their wellbeing.

Children at risk lack many of these checkpoints. Worse, they may fall off the radar completely. Foster children are particularly vulnerable because the state has replaced their original parent. Essentially, they have a corporate parent until they are either reunified with their original family or adopted by another.  Government can't love a child. It's imperative we find homes for holding/waiting children.

Yet, for as long as there has been child welfare, we have lacked sufficient families to step up and answer the call to parent them.  My idea is simple: marketing, publicity and awareness. Nothing else has worked. Why not try an affirming advertising campaign? Sell the idea so that we can place these children in safe. loving homes.

Big fan of CHRISKids. My sister lives in Atlanta. Next time I visit her, I'll reach out to you to come by and say "hello"!

Thanks again for your support!


Photo of Liz Liston

Melanie, Just want to give you a friendly headsup that there's a typo in your mission statement, I think the word is meant to be 'public' :)

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Hi there, Liz:

You are the best! Three sets of copy-editing eyes missed that one. I finally corrected it about a week ago, but I'm afraid a lot of previous content with the mistake is still floating around out there. Glad your sharp eyes caught it. You're hired!

I am excited to see so many foster voices represented in the Children's Wellbeing Initiative. There's a terrific mix of projects including 2 group homes, technology, ad campaign (��), mentoring and direct services. Foster care was mentioned at the Democratic National Convention in former President Bill Clinton's speech, and in the speeches of former foster youth and by child welfare workers. Change is in the air. So is awareness thanks to all of the Pioneers!

Best of luck with your project.


Photo of Brittany Lothe

Hi Melanie Gilbert - I enjoyed reading about your project. The assets are visually beautiful. Would be great to learn more about your partnership strategy to scale! 

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Thanks, Brittany!

Thank you for your visually discerning eye :) and your encouraging thoughts about scaling this project. I'm a big advocate of working with existing models (schools, medical institutions) to support groundbreaking ideas. Your project is a model of partnership on behalf of children's wellbeing.

You're right that a partnership strategy is the next step to scaling I Am SOMEBODY to a national level campaign. The social media launch was a way to test the idea that the campaign had "legs" and could appeal to constituencies outside of just the dedicated and single-minded focus of the core foster care community (don't want to preach only to the choir!). That idea was validated by the incredibly strong viral response via Twitter and Facebook.

Now is the time for a "live" launch via a child welfare agency. Already on it!

It's inspiring to read about projects like yours. There's a lot of positive energy out there for children's wellbeing.

Warm regards,


Photo of Trish Dewald

Gorgeous visually.  Gorgeous mission. Thank you for advocating for our babies :)

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Hi Trish,

You are too kind!

Awareness - or what I like to call consciousness raising - is an undervalued expertise, especially in the nonprofit sector. You find radical visionaries in politics and social justice issues - fields where people know how to leverage the impact of social and mainstream media with visuals and a compelling narrative.

I want to bring that "sell the sizzle, not the steak" storytelling power to foster care awareness. And I want to do so in a dignified, coherent and empowering way. I AM SOMEBODY makes its pitch through the voice of the child in care using images of children from care.

Thank you for calling it gorgeous. I appreciate your artistic eye. We spent a lot of time culling images to produce the first set of 12. Many, many more to come. I am proud of this campaign and I hope we can elevate its message to a wider audience.

Love what you are doing via yoga for the children of Detroit. Can't do enough for those kids. Glad you are there for them.



Photo of Christine Mason

I like how your campaign can influence so many aspects of the population.  Children in foster care situations can see messages reflecting and boosting their self-worth, current foster care families can have their experiences echoed, and individuals who might be considering offering foster care can be reminded of the important aspect of the worth and dignity of each person. Thank you for all you do!

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Hi Christine!

Thanks for a great email You may need to run publicity on this publicity campaign :)

To paraphrase writer Jill Filipovic (@JillFilipovic), we can’t change longstanding assumptions about what foster care looks like unless we change what foster care looks like.

We can start that transformation with a message everybody understands: kids - no matter where they come from, or how they got there - are worth it. And layer that message of belonging with vibrant images of kids being kids to further affirm their place in the world.

Thank you for taking the time to engage this Children's Wellbeing Challenge, and sharing your thoughts with me.


Photo of Lisa Helfman

You are doing amazing work being advocates for foster children - thanks for what you are achieving!

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Wow! Thank you, Lisa. I am so glad you commented on my project because it gave me a chance to read all about yours (it's hard to sort through all 284 changemaker submissions). I love Brighter Bites! I'm passing on your info to my sister, Lisa, who recently moved to Dallas (husband job transfer) and is looking to get involved in the community.

You totally get that food insecurity goes deeper than just access; it speaks to what kind of food kids have access to. Our local food bank gets tons of beans, rice, soups, crackers, ramen (!), pancake mix and similar starchy donations when what they really need are donations of fruits and veggies.

Your model is providing a more well-rounded, balanced and realistic food narrative for these communities. I remember bringing girls from an at-risk Detroit-based program to my house for an afternoon of crafts, and they fell upon my fruit bowl of apples, pears and bananas. They ate that fruit like it was candy. It was an eye-opening experience for me. Not only did their neighborhood not even have a grocery store, but the bodegas and liquor/snack stores didn't stock healthy choices like fruit.

I think you are a Changemaker (and evaluated you like one, too :)). Best of luck with your work.


PS: I followed you on Twitter

Photo of Jennell Riddick

Wonderful project and so needed! Thanks Melissa for  your investment in the wellbeing of children. I too agree that we must address the self-esteem of our children as we attempt to care for the "whole" person.

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Hi Jennell -
Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words. Kids thrive when they matter - a sensibility our projects both respect in attitude and support in practice.

I love how Ladies of Distinction recognizes the whole child in all their domains - social, emotional, intellectual, physical and personal. It's an ambitious program. Most programs concentrate on any one of those important and challenging areas. Your scope is impressive, and it looks like you are rockin' it!

Mostly, I just like the attitude of your idea: that these girls are worth it. That's a powerful and underrated idea for change, especially for children who either don't have a voice or are spoken for largely through adult voices. Your program educates these girls in how to be their own agents / voice of change.

Caroline Mason, CEO of EsmeeFairbairn, a European charity,  said she is troubled by the use of "deficit language" - stereotypes, biases, and myth making - when it comes to describing marginalized populations. This destructive storytelling must be challenging in words and deeds. And, it must be challenged early and often, before the corrosive narrative becomes part of the impacted communities' - whether it be youth in foster care or youth in Virginia - identity.

Your project sees these children as valuable assets. That alone is a Changemaker idea.

Glad to be involved in this process with you.


PS: I love the photo of the girls in their pink t-shirts. Great visual! Also followed you on Twitter.


Photo of Danielle Gletow

Love this so much. Proud to have One Simple Wish be a call to action after the awareness!

Photo of Marieke Hensel

I wholeheartedly agree with sharing this positive message. "I AM SOMEBODY" empowers not only the foster child, but also the foster parent. Foster parents want to be part of a success story, but unfortunately the negative message about foster care mishaps gets shared too often in the news. There are many inspiring and positive and normal stories to be shared. Many of these kids are amazing, loving kids with unique personalities, and I hope that story gets shared to take away the 'foster care' stigma for everyone involved.

Photo of Lisa

Love the highly visual and easily relatable aspects of this campaign. For so many people, foster children can be perceived as a scary unknown. This literally puts a face(s) to foster kids and shows how sweet, adorable and easily lovable they are! ❤️

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Hi Lisa,

Thanks for the positive feedback!
You can view more of my affirming foster care work on http://melanieinboston.com/
You're right: foster kids are seen as scary largely because they are unknowable. And that's definitely not a pretty picture.
We can do better.
I'm glad I Am SOMEBODY "puts a face" to foster care adoption for you.


Photo of Speed Racer

Love this idea. Same concept of raising awareness was used by Human Rights Campaign (HRC) to promote marriage equality back when the country was divided on the issue. Same for Autism Speaks - no one dared mentioned the word. Now it's talked about everywhere and socially accepted as mainstream. If you can get a conversation started, action will follow.

Photo of Melanie Gilbert

Thanks for the vote of support!
I love it that you think my little campaign tracks with HRC and Autism Speaks. Wow! Humbled . . . .
Children in care are a marginalized population. They lack access to the levers of power and are not enfranchised to make their voices heard. They need the love and protection, guidance and support of a family to thrive and be their best selves. I Am SOMEBODY encourages families to be their best selves for kids in care and adopt from foster care. Thanks, again for your kind words. Melanie