Advocating for youth in the foster care system since 2006, I experienced ten long years in it myself. The day I turned 18, I was suddenly on my own, facing adulthood with no direction.
After 25 different placements – group and foster homes, shelters, adoption, reunification – I was left reading and writing at a 7th grade level with little hope of catching up to where I was expected to be to enter the workforce of college.
I contacted an old therapist and asked for help to sign up for services and get into college. She gave me some books on trades, recommending them as my best bet.
I said “No, I want to be a caseworker, like the one I didn’t have.”
Getting my degree in Social Work was hard. I cried many times, but I had to be ok with my shortcomings. If it weren’t for my friends, the writing lab, my professor’s office hours, I couldn’t have done it. I don’t want all those obstacles for other youths.
When I started my master’s, I had been a social worker for two years, but people still discouraged me. What they didn’t see is how I use my struggles as a vehicle for change, to be the solution to the challenges I’ve faced.
When I was asked to become a foster mother to my two cousins, my greatest fear had been that I would have a child CPS would take away. My partner reminded me, “No one ever came for you. I remember how alone you said that made you feel.” I faced my fear and since 2015 I’m a proud mother. To be a role model and see them grow is just amazing!
The 15+ years of experience in advocacy makes me the leader I am today. Looking from the lens of a CPS worker, a home study case worker, a foster care youth and adoptive parent, I use my lived experiences to be the solution. I went through my trials and tribulations so I can be a testimony to others.
My story shows that if you know the people and services that are out there to help you and get an education, you will be set up for success. All foster youth can become self-sufficient. I live for helping them do things they thought they could never accomplish - and then they do!
When people admire my success, I tell them “I’m no different than the people we serve. You see a polished, refined Cortney Jones. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have the same challenges.” Success is not measured by going to college, or starting your own nonprofit. When you achieve something you didn’t think you could by dispelling the myths in your head, that is true success.
2016: 1st Annual Foster Care Awareness Event - Crawfish for Change
2017: Gained status as a fully incorporated non-profit
2018: Board of Trustees holds 1st meeting. We receive 1st Grant through the Reissa Foundation
2019: Thanksgiving Event has grown to Change 1 serving an average of 60 youths per year
2020: Volunteers enable us to make a success once again of the Thanksgiving Event, despite the pandemic, with the sponsorship of a shelter in Round Rock.
Dell Technologies partnered with Change 1 for a Virtual Job Preparedness Series for young adults impacted by the foster care system. Interview skills, attire, filling out applications, resume building and networking were all part of this amazing opportunity.
Glimmer Austin recognizes Change1 for our community work and provided $10,000 toward hiring staff for capacity building and funding programs for youth leaders and community partners.
Candlelight Ranch provides a 2- day camping experience in the Texas hill country, an exceptional experience for youths with team building activities, and memorable first time campout for many!
Mission Capital made it possible for 10 youths to be trained in research and employment skills in a Youth Summer Internship Program. The 5-week sessions trained youths to identify methods of research, create surveys, practice interpersonal skills, evaluate data, and develop leadership skills. Community volunteers presented to the interns sharing their journeys in education, employment, and skill building as examples of successful outcomes with perseverance.
Texas Center for Child and Family Studies & Monarch Family Services awarded Change 1 as a Grantee for the Young Adult Pandemic Aid Program to distribute aid to foster youths who have aged out of the foster care system who were adversely affected by the pandemic.