Jennifer L. England
Region 4 Youth Specialist
Texas Department of Family & Protective Services
Salary: Around $28,000.
My Organization: The Texas Department of Family & Protective Services Region 4, which is composed of 23 counties in East Texas.
My Job: England is the youth specialist for the DFPS’ Region 4. Her job is to “advocate for youth rights, implement change in DFPS and serve as a liaison to get the youths’ needs met at a state level,” she said. “I am currently working to develop a partnership … to get local churches, businesses, mentors, volunteers, schools, etc. involved in aftercare services to our youth.”
How I Got Here: The state of Texas mandates that each region hire a former foster child to work as a youth specialist. England was in foster care at the age of 13 and transitioned out while pursuing her public administration degree at Stephen F. Austin State University. She received it in 2008. While at the university, she worked at the Women’s Shelter of East Texas. She began working for the DFPS last fall and resumed her studies at Stephen F. Austin this spring, working toward a master’s of public administration.
Best Part of My Job: “Knowing that I made a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes I’ll just talk to the youth on the phone for an hour and I feel like I have connected to them on a level that no one else has,” England said. “After meeting with them, I nearly feel like we’re family.”
Worst Part of My Job: “Policy and all of the red tape. There’s a difference between what needs to be done to ensure that our youth will live successful lives and what I can do as a state employee. I see areas that are deficient and feel that the process for change is almost unfeasible at times, especially when no one else cares to tackle the heart of the problem,” she said.
Most Memorable Moment: England recalls one time at a camp when she was approached by a youth she had inspired. “She thought it was really cool that I came from foster care and that it motivated her to want to try to become something,” England said. “She wasn’t embarrassed about the label any more and knew that she was strong enough to rise above her situation. It made me proud of her and myself.”
Benefits of Being a Foster Care Alumna: “It gives me the ability to effectively communicate with the youth I serve,” England said. “I know exactly where they have been and what they are going through, and this time. I have some influence on how to make it easier for them so that they do not have to experience the challenges I did.”