Aging-Out of Foster Care in NYC, Dmitriy

Dmitri at Sam's Barber Shop in Massapequa Park, NY. (Aug. 11, 2011) Photo by Heather Walsh

Foster kids in New York age out of the system anywhere between 18 and 21 years old.  Few are left with the resources and skills needed to support themselves, or find work and secure housing. A large percentage of youth end up homeless after aging out of the foster care system.  Here is one story in summary, the first of many being created by the SalaamGarage Local humanitarian media team in NYC to raise awareness about the challenges youth face when they age-out of the foster care system. SalaamGarage is excited to launch this, the pilot for our first local storytelling project.  It is called SalaamGarage Local, or SGLocal for short. SGLocal-NYC is our first hyper local based team.  The team is made up of local media professionals who are committed to using their storytelling and documentary skills to make a positive impact on the social problems affecting our communities.

Dmitriy, 22 yrs. old. Bethpage, NY (As told to photographer Heather Walsh)
After his birth in Russia, Dmitriy was placed into an orphanage where he lived with more than 100 children. At age 11 he was adopted by an American family and moved to New York. He spoke no English and the only person he could talk to was a Russian barber who he still sees regularly. He only lived with his adopted family for three years, experiencing neglect and mistreatment the whole time. Without notice, his adopted parents placed him into foster care. At first he landed in an institutional home that he says was worse than the orphanage. After that he was placed in two two foster care group homes until at 21, he aged-out of the system.   He now lives on his own and works for the Oyster Bay Dept. of Sanitation. He hopes to have a long career with the dept. and build a good life for himself.

Dmitriy, age 22, stands in hallway of his apartment in Bethpage, NY. (Aug. 2, 2011) Photo by Heather Walsh

Dmitriy is part of a program that helps aged-out youth with housing subsidies. The Nassau County Homelessness Prevention & Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) pilot program.  Photographer Heather Walsh is still working on her project with Dmitriy and will be looking for places in print and online to share his story.  She and many other photographers on the team are looking forward to working with local reporters who can write and interview the subjects for the greatest impact.

If you live in the NYC/NJ metro area and are a professional writer, reporter, photographer, videographer, or other media creator and would like to get involved please join the SalaamGarage Meetup group.

For more info about SalaamGarage Local email maggie@salaamgarage.com.