Lewiston Youth One of Top 100 Outstanding Foster Youth Leaders

Dustin Strout Honored for Achievement and Community Service
Watch Dustin’s Story of help and hope

LEWISTON and WASHINGTON, D.C. — THRIVE System of Care Initiative and FosterClub are pleased to announce that Dustin Strout is one of 100 foster care youth nationwide just named Outstanding Young Leaders of 2009. FosterClub recognized Dustin and the others for leadership, accomplishments, educational achievement and community service.

“The award means everything to me,” Strout says. “Now people can read about my life, from how I grew up to what I am now. Everybody has it in them. They just have to try and believe. It’s all a mind set. It’s not just going to fall into your lap. It doesn’t matter what people think, say or do, just be you,” he says.

21-year-old Dustin entered foster care at 18 months and had five placements until the age of 9, when he ran away for the first of many times. In and out of group homes for eight years, he also spent a year in a lockdown mental institution. Despite these obstacles, he graduated from high school and just completed his first college semester aiming for a degree in human services, so he can “help kids in my position.”

Strout advocates for homeless awareness, including starring in the autobiographical “Digital Stories: Where there is Help, there is Hope.” The 12-min video aired throughout May at Flagship Cinema in Auburn and is available to schools and other community organizations through THRIVE, where Strout is a member of the Youth Committee. For more of Dustin’s story, go to:

“Despite the hardships and setbacks these Outstanding Young Leaders faced, they are committed to making a difference for the children and youth still in foster care,” said Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), chair of the U.S. House Income Security and Family Support Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over the nation’s child welfare system.

Foster care was designed as a temporary solution to remove children from abuse and neglect, but children often languish in foster care before returning to their families, joining new adoptive families or living permanently with relative caregivers. More than 26,000 young people “aged out” of foster care last year without a permanent family to rely upon. Research reveals that many youth who “age out” of foster experience homelessness, unemployment, incarceration or illness – fewer than 3% of youth who age out of foster care graduate from college and nearly 1 in 5 become homeless.

THRIVE System of Care Initiative is building a network of services and supports for children and youth who have experienced severe emotional disturbance and their families in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties. The Thrive Initiative promotes family-driven, youth-guided, culturally and linguistically competent, and trauma-informed services. It is a partnership of Maine’s Children’s Behavioral Health Division, Tri-County Mental Health Services, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in collaboration with local provider agencies.

FosterClub is the national network for young people in foster care. FosterClub’s mission is to improve life for young people in foster care through a national network that is built for youth and powered by youth. The organization is founded on the principle that young people in and from foster care deserve to be connected, informed, inspired and represented.

Category: Children's Mental Health Awareness