Once homeless, this former foster youth is advocating for change within Indiana DCS

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Indianapolis Star on 3/2/2021 by Holly V. Hays

Dejuna Rodriguez was 14 when she first became homeless.

She didn’t say much about what led to it, just that a lot of things happened in her childhood that she didn’t understand. That, looking back, her mom — who could at times be abusive — didn’t always have the tools to parent her and her siblings.

Now 22, Rodriguez spent years cycling in and out of the child welfare system, in home placements and at residential facilities. She felt lost, otherized — like she’d been put in a box because of her past, which she couldn’t control. As if no one saw her as a whole person, just a file in a series of thousands of kids in foster care.

It would’ve been easy to give up on those around her. And, for a time, she did. But she never gave up on herself.