Foster Youth Publication – Represent Magazine: Interview with Editor, Virginia Vitzthum

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Publication for Foster Youth by Foster Youth

Transfiguring Adoption is always on the lookout for new and useful tools for foster and adoptive parents. As parents, we are looking for tools that will help the children in our care to deal with past trauma and to help them get their voice back. It can most likely be said that we want to hear their story not only to give them a voice but to better assist them in their journey through life.

Represent Magazine is a print publication that has been in existence since 1994. The magazine has always been based out of New York City and found its beginnings from a high school project. It seems that in the 80s the population of foster youth in New York area skyrocketed and many kids appeared to be ashamed of the fact that they did not live in their birth home. Consequently, Represent Magazine was birthed to give these youth a voice and address the shame they felt in their lives.

About The Writing Process

Most writers for Represent are found when a caseworker, foster parent, therapist or other professional discover a youth with a passion to write. Many of the kids have never written in a professional capacity. Not to worry since the magazine pairs the student up with an editor.

“The editors are all hired from the publishing, editing, writing world – not the social work world,” Vitzthum tells us.

The youth meet with their editor to go over their story idea. Students are then given a computer station that they will visit at least two afternoons a week to write and wrestle over their story. One of the beautiful parts of the process is when the editor is able to go over the student’s writing in the evening and begin the editing process.

“… I edit their stuff so when they come back the next time there are all these bold bracketed questions and suggestions. We have this real conversation back and forth through editing,” explains Vitzthum.

This conversation and trust is sowed in the editing process and the growth of that trust is made possible as the student can choose to interact through interaction that they are most comfortable. In fact Virginia explained that it was neat to see that some teens will speak with her face to face in her office while other students feel more comfortable conversing from afar behind their computer in the newsroom. Over time interactions put down roots that create an atmosphere that allow youth to trust their adult editor.

Is The Publication Helping Foster Youth?

While Transfiguring Adoption can appreciate that students are given a voice and given business experience, we want to know if the magazine does anything to actually help kids to deal with their past trauma. Vitzthum was quick to say that she believes that Represent helps youth.

“I would say for some of my writers this is the only place in their life that is not chaotic, and for some of my writers this is the only place in their life where an adult is nice to them.” – Virginia Vitzthum

Vitzthum also points out that it can be very therapeutic for some teens to write about something that they have kept a secret. In one case a teen looked at their journaled material and marveled at all the life events that they had been through.

How is Represent a Resource for Foster or Adoptive Parents?

Virginia was able to articulate several fantastic reasons a foster or adoptive parent would want to read Represent. Since the publication focuses on stories from foster youth, parents are able to get an indepth look at the emotions and feelings of a foster child. Parents will be able to discover how to make a child feel welcomed or alienated in their home. Folks can discover what conversations or activities to stay away from at the beginning of the relationship. Virginia recounts that sometimes it’s just the small things for a child…

“…Wow! This foster mother actually came up to my room with me and helped me unpack.”

Where Can You Find Represent Magazine?

Represent has a subscription list of about 7,000 and is put out on a national level. You may find it in a therapist office, court lobby, foster agencies, individual homes and more. The publication is also completely available online.

Transfiguring Adoption encourages you to order a subscription to this magazine for yourself or your business. You may do so or simply learn more about Represent Magazine by visiting their website.

representmag.org

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