Latrice Ware was born and raised in Ohio. She was in kinship care until age 12 and then went into the foster care system at age 13 after her grandmother had a stroke. Latrice was placed in three foster homes. Latrice questioned how a stranger could love a child that wasn’t theirs. Her foster mother’s response was that she does love her and that she cares for someone else children so those children can do it for someone else. She challenged Latrice to do more and be more. Because of her love and encouragement, Latrice has spent her entire life helping others. Latrice graduated high school and began college at 16. She endured a heart catheterization procedure as a teenager and left school because of her health.
Latrice found a job in corporate America and worked her way up the corporate ladder. The price of success was working 65-70 hours per week leaving little time to spend with her young daughter. She then worked as a consultant for Arlington County.
Leadership Initiatives for Transitioning (LIFT) Teens formerly Youth Business Initiative, was founded in 2006 by Latrice Ware and Alycia Guichard, two foster care alumni. They formed the Youth Business Initiative to provide career training to youth in foster care during the summer. The impact was immediate and positive. The youth participating in the program learned about good careers but were returning home to the same negative environments. Latrice set out to raise money for a year round program and the Alumni Ambassador program was birthed. The Ambassadors would become trainers but before training others they needed to experience the curriculum themselves. The Ambassadors participated in the Costa Rica Alumni Leadership Training outward bound experience where they learned that change could not be controlled but it could be managed. The next step was to ensure that the Ambassadors received college credit for their participation. As a part of this participatory action research project, the Ambassadors wrote the curriculum, taught the course, and facilitated focus groups. Research uncovered the identity crisis faced by youth in care. In an effort to assist the ambassadors, Latrice reached out to African Ancestry and the fifteen youth ambassadors were able to learn about their heritage.
LIFT Teens’ mission is to empower disadvantaged youth, particularly those in foster care, to become strong self-advocates and healthy, self -aware young adults who have the resiliency and grit to be successful. In 2007, Latrice received the First Annual Ruth Massinga award for her work with foster youth. In 2009, Latrice left Booz Allen Hamilton, a management consulting firm, to work full time as YBI’s Executive Director. Their amazing community work includes the Summer Institute for teens in care, an Alumni Ambassadors program for Summer Institute Graduates, and weekend workshops throughout the school year for foster youth in the DC area using their custom designed curriculum, Transition Ease.
Latrice’s goal is to be a support and a mentor for the next generation. Sustainability of the work from this project was the next task at hand. Latrice was facilitating youth-led training and consulting and preparing youth to take the lead. As a result, The International Summit of Youth In Care was held in Maryland this summer. Because of Latrice’s efforts, youth from several countries were able to convene and use their experiences to influence child welfare policy on a global scale and make a social impact.
When asked what we can do to support teens girls in foster care, Latrice replied “give them a sense of community”. There are many broken families and girls growing up without dads or positive father figures who are succumbing to natural pitfalls. The negative behaviors we witness are often a result of growing up in a community without a strong male leader and looking for father figures or trying to build a community in the only way they know how.
In order to build strong girls we need to support them and speak life over them. If we truly want what is best for them then we will help cushion their fall when they make mistakes. We must challenge them to do more, to work hard, and to motivate themselves. We can set girls up for success by teaching them that there is no long-term success that comes without hard work and commitment. We must teach them to define success for themselves because materialism doesn’t equate to success.
Youth learn best when they engage and interact with each other. Latrice’s final words of wisdom are to encourage other youth in care to tell their stories to help the next generation.
As we hosted our 6th Annual Pack A Purse Drive™ in December 2012, we will use the Teen Toolbox blog as a platform to spread inspiration and hope by highlighting the triumphs of successful women foster care alumni.
Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox provides youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic empowerment strategies to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs. We are committed to supporting and raising awareness about the needs and potential of teenagers in the foster care system. ©