Dear HelloGiggles Reader,
I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Daniel Heimpel, and I am a journalist gone-rogue with a radical idea: that solution-based journalism can dramatically improve the foster care system and thereby inspire a Child-Centered Political Movement.
I am very happy to be reaching out to you today, because, as I have learned over the years, it is predominantly women who bear the brunt of caring for this country’s vulnerable children. For whatever reason, I often find myself one of the few men in the room when it comes to improving foster care. So if you end up getting involved in this movement, please bring your reluctant boyfriends along with you.
In 2006, I started covering foster care as a journalist, largely because of personal experience as a mentor to two young men who have both since “aged out” of the system. I watched them struggle to transition into adulthood and came to understand the myriad adverse experiences that had left them facing adulthood at an unfair deficit compared to myself. This started what is now an all-consuming passion for improving the child welfare system with the one skill I have – journalism.
I run a non-profit – Fostering Media Connections – which harnesses the power of journalism and media to drive public and political will behind improving foster care. I teach a course called Journalism for Social Change at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism where graduate students from the J-School, the Goldman School of Public Policy and the School of Social Welfare learn how to use journalism to make the world better for children. My organization piloted a program that teaches foster youth how to be journalists themselves. And we publish a news website – The Chronicle of Social Change — bent on covering the issues facing vulnerable children and stoke support for the solutions to those issues.
This work has been — and is — the great adventure of my life.
Through the writing I will submit to HelloGiggles, I hope to inspire your action and commitment to this cause. If you are already interested in learning more and get involved more deeply, I have a crazy idea… climb a 14,000-foot peak with me and a group of former foster youth and child advocates next month.
There are approximately 12 million Americans who have experienced foster care in America, with over 400,000 children in the system today. While the story we so often hear is laced with the hardship these children and adults have to endure, there is another — wholly different – story: one etched in resilience and strength.
California Youth Connection (CYC), a foster youth-run and led legislative advocacy organization, is composed of hundreds of current and former foster youth who are the embodiment of that inspirational story. Since CYC was founded in 1988, it has grown into powerful political force, not only bending the arc of California’s public policy around foster care, but empowering thousands of youth to speak directly to power. The example set by CYC and its young leaders has inspired as many as 106 youth-driven advocacy groups across the nation.
As a journalist, the director of Fostering Media Connections and now as a CYC board member, I have come to know the organization and the youth it represents intimately. As someone deeply committed to the movement CYC represents and the promise it holds for the future of not only children in foster care, but all children, I feel compelled to do whatever I can to help.
So, I am combining one of my passions — mountaineering — with fundraising for this important cause. On July 21st of this year, a group of climbers and myself will take the Southern route up 14,180-foot Mt. Shasta. This southern Cascade is a great introductory climb for people who want a gateway into larger more technical peaks.
We have set up a web-based giving platform so that anyone interested in the climb can join us and raise funds to support CYC’s advocacy and youth empowerment work. In addition to joining us for the climb, you can support CYC by sponsoring or donating to the cause, HERE.
Please join me in helping foster youth reach new heights.