ESFCC: Encouraging self-discovery in foster care children

Planting the seed of social-emotional growth in foster care children so they may develop, flourish, and realize their individual self-worth.

Photo of Mariam Rizvi
9 13

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Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Idea (hoping to get started in the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Foster care systems in the United States are not paid enough attention to; therefore, there is no regulation on how these children are treated. Often times the social-emotional needs of these children go unmet and therefore fostering a mindset of low self-esteem and self worth. The lives of all children matter, and hundreds of thousands of them are being treated unfairly. It is important to shed light on this issue to support their future.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We plan to implement mental health counseling sessions and a peer mentor program in foster care systems. The mental health counseling sessions will take place both individually and in a group setting. If the children have dealt with trauma, abuse, or any psychological issues in their past, or are currently going through it, the individual sessions can help them heal, grow, and gain an understanding of who they are. In a group setting, the mental health counselors, peer mentors, and foster care children gather and discuss mindful strategies and empowering questions to help them discover themselves. Together they can do activities such as painting, drawing, writing, yoga, reading, writing, and other creative outlets. The children can have additional free time with just their individually assigned mentor and talk to them about their dreams, passions, likes, dislikes, and issues, no matter how big or small. Since most foster care children do not have a family or a stable place to call home, having someone to talk to who is their age will create a sense of stability, love, comfort, and positivity. We can also start drives so that people can donate toys, books, art supplies, and more.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

Growing up, we both have always cared about others and always knew that we wanted to dedicate our lives to helping others and making an impact in the world. Everyone searches for that one person they can have a special bond with. For Mariam, that person is her mom--a kind, caring, nurturing, mother to 5. Mariam feels inspired to provide opportunities for foster care children to have someone who they can confide their emotions in and who makes them feel empowered and confident--the same way her mom does for her. For Alisha, from a young age she felt a genuine love and care for others, and she just knew that she needed to dedicate her life to helping others find their true happiness. She grew up with a sweet disabled neighbor she enjoyed spending much of her free time with him. She just wanted to protect him and care for him and that’s the same feeling she has with the foster children.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Imagine a young foster child who feels lost, trapped in his own situation, and unable to find a place that he can call home. It feels as if no one can hear him or even cares to notice; thus, he does not have hope in himself that he will have success or get out of his current situation. He doesn't have a support system to call family who cheers him on along the way, and doesn't realize his own self worth. However, he becomes involved in ESFCC and gets paired with a mentor around the same age as him who soon becomes his confidant who he shares all his aspirations, struggles, hobbies, and interests with. He does not feel so alone anymore, and finally finds someone who he can call family. Through health counseling, he discovers his own worth and then feels confident enough in himself to discover his own passions and dreams for the future.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

We stand out because peer mentoring is youth to youth, run by youth. Other organizations have adults running the operations and interacting with the kids who they can’t relate with; however, with our project, they can connect with and relate to the mentors. Having someone their age creates a comfortable feeling. We also believe that our project is unique in the way that we’re implementing mental health counseling--not many organizations provide mental health care for foster children. It’s important to us that these children receive the resources needed to find themselves and their happiness.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Although we are still in the idea-stage of our project, we hope to watch it grow and flourish in the near future and help hundreds to thousands of children across the U.S. In one month, we plan to have started a new research project with a licensed social worker so that we may be able to directly impact our local foster care homes. We plan to have children in foster care homes in our city paired up with a peer mentor and having individual and group sessions with a mental health counselor by the end of the first month. In 6 months, we hope to have established an official organization- a team of social workers, legal workers, mental health counselors, and peer mentors- which goes throughout south Florida. In 12 months, we hope to have our organization reach beyond Florida into many other states in the U.S. and continue to branch out to as many places as we can.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

Since we are dual-enrolled at Florida Atlantic University, we’ve spoken to a licensed social worker who works with foster care children, and are currently meeting with her to start a future research project. We plan to use our connections at the school to spread our work and encourage them to talk to others that they know from universities all across the U.S. Alisha--being a mental health advocate at the university--has connections with hundreds of mental health counselors who can participate in our project. We also plan to implement a peer mentoring program through the university, allowing thousands of students to become involved. We can additionally set up drives throughout the school to get people to send in their donations and pitch in.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Legal Services

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • T-Mobile page or contact

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 66.7%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 66.7%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 100%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 100%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 0%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


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Photo of Dominique Hebert Bordelon

I think it's a wonderful idea.

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