Miranda Baldwin, “Mandy”, spent 8 years in foster care and stayed in 13 placements before being forced to leave her final placement two weeks after her 18th birthday. She had not graduated from high school, lacked a support system, and had nowhere to go. Although she could have easily gone down the rocky road of life post-foster care, suffering the outcomes of far too many of her peers, Mandy made a conscious decision that she was going to make it on her own.
She passed her GED tests with flying colors, enrolled in college and made the Dean's List her first semester, all the while holding down as many as three jobs. And those are just a few of her many accomplishments… Three years ago, Mandy was approached by producer and friend Matt Anderson about participating in From Place to Place, a documentary about America’s foster care system.
Matt writes; “She was interested from the very beginning and decided to share her foster care story and allow us to document her life for over two years. In addition to the courage she showed in sharing her story, I was impressed with her clear intention to have an impact on the next generation of kids in foster care. She believed that by telling her story today she could improve the system for kids tomorrow. Her ability to look beyond the moment and beyond herself was of particular note, but what was even more outstanding was her willingness to sacrifice her anonymity for people she doesn't know and will probably never meet.”
Last May, Mandy had the opportunity to leave Montana and fly on an airplane for the first time in her life. She arrived in Washington DC to meet with members of Congress and testify to the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth. Matt Anderson says; “Again, Mandy was quick to impress. She quickly shook of the nerves and it was as if she had been talking to high powered child welfare leaders for years.”
She took this opportunity to hone her message about the importance of permanency and her concerns about the use of psychotropic medications with kids in foster care. She returned to the Caucus' final summer session where other former foster youth gave feedback about the soon to be released Call to Action for child welfare reform. Becky Shipp with the Senate Committee on Finance refers to her as the "God Mother" of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth.
After participating in the Senate Caucus, Mandy was invited by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Max Baer to present at their annual Children's Roundtable Summit in Pennsylvania. She continued to craft her message about permanency and mental health and spoke powerfully about children in foster care being our future and deserving of every opportunity to be successful.
Most recently, Mandy joined a team of community members that is developing a theater program for kids currently in foster care. She will also be presenting at Montana's Court Improvement Program Leadership Summit this spring. Like Anderson says; “Mandy is quick, smart and savvy.
She is humble yet powerful. Mandy is a natural born leader and will continue to do great things and make a difference in this world.” Mandy is the perfect example of a foster youth who, despite undeniably difficult circumstances, has beaten all the odds. Now an independent, successful young woman (not to mention talented singer and star of a documentary), Mandy is using her experiences and her voice to advocate for youth in care.
“If every foster child had a voice I believe the system would literally change overnight,” Mandy writes. “It’s pretty daunting to think a little Montana girl is going to have a national effect on what happens with our foster care system.” Thank you, Mandy, for having the courage to get out there and make a difference!!!