Once a child of the foster care system herself, CEO of Found Village Katie Nzekwu helps children and teens in need.
How are you striving to change the way foster children are cared for?
The foster system is well-intended, but it can’t provide that sense of safety and support that young people need to thrive and to grow. The system was never designed to raise children. We start with looking at kids as humans. We really believe that if we can provide the same type of support we provide our own kids, the better chance they have to succeed. What’s the second best option to a family? A really supportive community.
What does it mean to not give up on teens?
We believe that nothing is wrong with our kids. They have normal responses to really abnormal things they’ve experienced. Because we have that posture, we expect things to be hard. When others walk away, we’re going to lean in, even if they’re pushing us away because of previous experiences. That’s where we’ve found breakthrough in relationships. We’re able to establish that we are different, and we can be trusted.
What propelled you to start Found Village?
When I was 15 years old, I spent a year in a detention center and a year in foster care. I was labeled as a bad kid, but I was just a misunderstood kid who needed to be loved and cared for in a different way. I was lucky to have a grandmother who paid for me to go to boarding school the year I came out of the detention center. That was the place I started to thrive, when people really saw me and brought out the strengths in me.
What does progress look like for you?
The overarching goal is mobilization out of poverty and the individual’s ability to meet their full potential in all areas of their life.