By Elisa Rocha Bupara
Kalyn Jones grew up in rural Del Norte County and loves the great outdoors. She hikes every weekend with her boyfriend and three dogs. She’s surrounded by three mountains, two lakes and endless woods.
At 25 years of age, Kalyn finds herself in a good place, but that wasn’t always the case after having spent many years in foster care.
“I was in foster care from about the time I was fourteen years-old,” Kalyn said. “I have been living independently on my own since I was 17. I had struggles with my family not really wanting me, but I concluded that it wasn’t that I wasn’t deserving of them, but that they were not deserving of me. It took me a long minute, but I overcame it. I grounded myself in college and my work so I could forget about my home life.”
Kalyn’s work these days is focused on advocating for foster youth. She also serves on the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission’s Youth Innovation Project Planning Committee. She will be the Commission’s Transitional Youth Age representative at the Commission’s July 25, 2019 meeting.
“I have honestly already done a lot of advocacy work for foster youth,” she said. “I want to go to law school and I want to write policy. I have been on several policy and legislative committees. I understand the process of getting an assembly bill through a fiscal committee and policy committee and getting it through the floor and all the way up to the Governor’s Office. I have been speaking out a lot on youth panels.”
In addition to serving on the Commission’s Youth Committee, Kalyn has worked with the California Youth Connection, Humboldt State University and other local youth organizations. She attended College of the Redwoods in Crescent City, Chico State University, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with minors in Ethics, Policy and Justice Studies, as well as Shasta College where she obtained an associate of arts degree in Behavioral and Social Sciences. She credits Shasta College’s Inspiring and Fostering Independence (SCI*FI) program with helping her obtain her degree.
Her experience with a youth survey helped launch her advocacy work.
“I pretty much started my advocacy work in Crescent City partnering with Humboldt State,” she said. “I worked on a youth survey, circulating it, collecting it and recording and presenting it to the county. We obtained funding for a foster youth center that is still open to this day. It’s pretty much what started my road to advocacy.”
Kalyn also advocates for small, rural counties.
“I am very passionate about those small, northern, rural underfunded counties,” she said. “Those small counties are not like those big metropolitan areas. I have nothing but praise for those small counties who have to do so much with fewer resources.”
Kalyn said she knows she wants to advocate for foster youth and feels she has much to contribute to any discussion about foster youth policy. She has been in policy discussions at the state level where those involved knew very little about foster care youth experiences.
While she was in foster care, Kalyn felt she didn’t have a voice. “I really never said anything,” she said. “I didn’t do anything. That’s one of the reasons I became such a strong voice for foster youth. I don’t advocate for me. I advocate for the people in the situation I was in. I’m doing it for the little girl or the little boy who are in the foster care system today and in the future.”
Kalyn continues to work on her own wellness. She began to accept contact from her biological father when she was 20 years old.
“When I got my AA degree, I invited my dad to my graduation and he attended,” she said. “We have fixed things up and we’re mending the relationship.”
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