ASCI Presents: A Lived Experience Story ft. Jaslyn Cuff
Each month A Second Chance, Inc. tries to share the voices of our kinship families through Q&A style discussions. We are an agency that strives to provide a safe, secure, and nurturing environment to children in the care of relatives or close family friends—formally called kinship care. Our goal is to truly understand our kinship families by listening to the irreplaceable insights that the lived experience of caregivers, birth parents, and children can offer to make the narrative authentic and programming more meaningful. This month we had the pleasure of speaking with a former child-in-care, Jaslyn Cuff.
What does kinship care mean to you? Why is it important?
To me, kinship care is about keeping the family together. Kinship care is important because when a child gets removed from their parents, providers should seek out family that would be willing to care for the child. Youth being with family provide normalcy for them, instead of feeling out-of-place. The child being with familiar faces versus with a stranger is always better in my eyes.
Can you speak about your experience in kinship care?
I was young when I was in kinship care. I was placed with my grandmother and, because it was family to me, it felt normal. My grandmother made me feel loved and wanted, no matter the circumstance. As I got older, I asked tons of questions and I was eventually able to piece my story together. I wish that then, someone took the time to explain to me what was happening and why it was happening.
What do you consider to be some of your greatest accomplishments thus far? Also, what has been your motivation?
Based on my experience in the system, my focus has always been to break generational curses. I am determined to not become a product of my environment. If I do have children in the future, I know I will do my best to ensure that they will not go through the same experiences I had. That within itself has been my greatest accomplishment.
What are you working towards next?
I currently work as a Youth Support Partner through DHS. Through my position, I mentor and advocate for kids in the system, giving them what I wish I had when I was in their shoes. Also, I am working on obtaining my associate’s degree in Social Work.
What advice would you give to youth going through kinship care?
Daily, I encounter youth experiencing some of the same things I did. My job is a constant reminder of where I came from and how far I have come. I use my related experiences to help the youth I serve today. They hear where I came from, and they see where I am, and in turn, they see themselves. I want them to know that the beginning of their story does not define who they are destined to be. Your destiny is not determined by your circumstance.
Given where you are today if you could give advice to your 11-year-old self, what would you say?
I would tell my younger self, “Your current situation is not your final destination.” Right now, things may not make sense, but let your struggles become your strength.