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Danielle King'16 (r) at Teen Day Panel Discussion in Kings County

Danielle King ’16 speaks at Family Court Teen Day Panel in Kings County

King: “Staying focused on my future fueled me and pushed me to achieve my goals.”

Danielle King ’16 participated in a panel discussion at Kings County Family Court’s Teen Day. As a law student who spent part of her childhood in foster care, she spoke out about the importance of having a voice and providing teens in foster care with information about housing, employment and health care.

Teens in foster care usually associate family court with negative connotations; Teen Day is an annual event that teaches teens that people in the family court system are there to help them. During this event teens are provided with valuable information about their rights in the foster care system, they can ask questions, voice their opinions or concerns regarding foster care and speak with a panel of four young people who have had some experience with the Family Court system. King, herself, went through the foster care system and ultimately “aged out.”

The panel is the most important part of the day. “The teens got to hear us speak about our experiences and hear the good and the bad which I think was very beneficial for them,” King said. “This is one of the rare times when they could criticize the foster care system or complain about certain challenges they are facing within the system.”

During the discussion, King spoke about the importance of goals and determination. “I didn’t have a mentor, but school helped me stay focused and guided me through all of the frustrations that came with being in foster care. Staying focused on my future fueled me and pushed me to achieve my goals.” Although the foster care agency did not support King’s desire to go out of state to college, King was determined to be in control of her life and refused to take “No” for an answer. “I told the teens that it is important that they know what they want and that they stay true to themselves. Don’t pay attention to anything negative that anyone says to you.” King also mentioned that some teens expressed concerns with the image some people have of them; they may have a stigma of being a bad kid or a social worker who makes certain assumptions about who they are without getting to know them. Because teens do not want that sigma being associated with them they are more likely not to tell the social worker about problems at home because they are scared that the foster parent or the social worker will get mad or shift the blame to the teen. “You have to be an advocate for yourself, that’s the only way you’ll get the full scope of the services you are entitled to… and if you don’t do that you’ll fall through the cracks.”

King’s relentless determination did not end at going to college of her choice. In addition to being a law student King is the president of the Lambda Law Alliance and she has currently worked as a paralegal at the Queens District Attorney’s office. Without a doubt King’s story was inspirational and she encouraged the teens to approach her after the event with any additional questions. “A big part of being on the panel was to enable teens to use [the panelists] as a resource, all of the kids were provided brochures with our bios and email addresses.” Indeed after the discussion several teens approached King with questions about college applications asking her for information and advice about things like financial aid and volunteer work. “Being on the panel was a very rewarding experience,” King concluded.

- Contributed by Victoria Dorum '17