Strategic Engagement, Strategic Sharing – Our 2020 Vision
By: RFCBC Community Relations Director Jayneanne Tuttle

As leaders for Realities for Children Boulder County, taking steps to achieve our 2020 vision, I am working hard to challenge how our community currently engages with and talks about young people’s experiences in foster care. Reframing the conversation about foster care starts with empowering young people to take ownership of their stories through the practice of strategic sharing. Think of strategic sharing as a tool for people to learn how to protect themselves, protect others involved in their story, and choose what parts of their experiences, their identity, are shared. Strategic sharing is a life skill: knowing one’s audience, identifying the purpose of sharing, to be strengthened through experiences (rather than being stereotyped or stigmatized) and having the tools to respond if something emerges that may be personal or possibly triggering. Much of strategic sharing and engagement reflects the idea of inviting our community to engage foster youth, wholly, as an individual, and as someone more than “just a foster kid.”

I am proud to share how we are working to embed this practice into our programing to guide and equip the young people we have the privilege of serving. Each year, we host our Hero Awards Luncheon. This signature event is our day to celebrate our community through leadership awards and awarding our next cohort of scholarship recipients. As part of this celebration, we share videos to introduce our newest scholarship winners. The purpose of making videos is to highlight the strength and resiliency of our scholarship recipients, to help community members understand why our work is so meaningful, and to provide context addressing some of the widely shared challenges of being in care. In the past, our videos centered more on the circumstances that led up to their time in foster care and the impact of those experiences. However, as we began to create this year’s videos, we did so through a lens of envisioning the future through empowerment.

Our empowerment approach for the videos focused on students’ individual strengths, hopes, and visions for their futures. My goal throughout the interviews was to help both the students and the audience see themselves the way they want to be seen, to celebrate their individual uniqueness, their resiliency, and uplift their power as young adults and future leaders in our community.

This being my first-time planning and being a part of creating the videos from scratch, I was unsure of what my expectations should be. Will it be clear if we accomplished our goals of empowerment? Will our participants reflect on this experience seeing themselves for who they want to be today instead of who they hope to be tomorrow? Did we offer up opportunities of self-love and growth? Will we be able to articulate the intimacy and joy of filming to our audience in a way that captures our scholars’ bright futures and raw strength? These questions ebbed at me through filming day and throughout anticipation for the final products. Being conscious of my efforts throughout this creative process held me accountable to the true intentions of Realities for Children Boulder County: to guide and financially support young people in times of transition who have triumphed in the face of adversity.

To my great surprise, as we filmed seven young people over the course of nine hours, it became increasingly clear that in one way or another we were fulfilling our goals, building relationships, and having so much fun. As the interviewer, it was invigorating to see and hear our scholars practice the tools of strategic sharing throughout their interviews. Our team captured our students’ super strengths, unique experiences, and individuality. We asked each of them two questions in which they had never been asked before, and in doing so we carefully avoided triggering past traumas and tears that often carry so much pain. These two questions were: “What is your favorite part of yourself? And what are your strengths?” In each interview, the off-guard reactions to these two questions became my signal that we have laid the ground work to build up our young adults, while changing the narrative about foster kids and the system. Seeing each person take a step back and awkwardly giggle through their positive self-reflection was priceless.

Filming day filled my cup with purpose and a clear focus on why it is so vital for us an organization to continuously consider what it means and looks like to empower our young people in every way possible.

View our video highlighting Triumph Scholarship recipients here.

View our Be Bright Scholarship recipient Kat video here.