Supporting Children in Foster Care: An Interview with Nicole Russell

We all know that life can be challenging at any time and season as an adult. Especially
during a global pandemic. But imagine being a child facing various life challenges. From
bullying, knowing your self worth, personal and academic achievement, and surviving
the age of social media. It’s tough and often children feel overlooked, voiceless, and
invalidated. And that’s children living within a family structure and a safe home

Now, imagine being a child living within the foster care system. You don’t
know where you are going to live or for how long. You don’t know if you are going to age
out the system. You don’t feel loved or receive genuine attention on a regular basis. And
you have no outlet to voice your concerns. You don’t know where or if you’ll receive any
comfort. What are you to do?

Everyone deserves someone that will champion for their well being, be an advocate for
them, and help provide a piece of comfort. That’s exactly what youth advocate and
author Nicole Russell of Precious Dreams Foundation aims to do for children in the
foster care system around the United States. One bag of comfort at a time.

What lead you to work with youth and be a voice for youth advocacy?

My mother empowered me to use my voice whenever I needed it. I’ve been advocating
for youth and people in need for as long as I can remember but it was always “just
because”. In 2012, I started a movement which inspired the formation of my non-profit
Precious Dreams Foundation and that’s when I started focusing on one specific group of
children in need.

Why is youth advocacy important?

There are so many reasons why youth advocacy is important. Most children don’t have
the platforms or ability to share their needs with people outside of their home and
school. They are not involved in many of the decision making conversations that affect
them in all aspects of their world and they don’t have many rights. With the children we
serve at Precious Dreams, sometimes they’ve been taught to hide unhealthy situations
to protect others and keep family secrets. It’s important that we use your voice to
represent and protect youth who may be struggling or living in unsafe situations.

When did Precious Dreams Foundation get started ,what is your role, and what is
it’s purpose?

I started the organization in 2012 with my mother, Angie Medina. Today, I’m the co-
founder and executive director. We provide comfort items for bedtime and

empower youth in foster care and homeless shelters to learn healthy ways to cope.

What states does Precious Dreams Foundation serve?

Currently we have chapters in Maryland, NY, FL, CA and IL. This year we’re opening a
Washington D.C. and Houston, TX chapter.

Touching on children in foster care, what’s the estimate number of children in
foster care?

There are over 430,000 children in the foster care system in the United States. This
number does not always include unaccompanied minors or youth living in detention

Do you find there are more children of color in the foster care system than as
compared to white children? If so, do you know why that is?

The highest population of children entering the foster system each year are white.
However, those numbers are the sum of youth in all states and white people are the
racial majority. African American children are more likely to stay in foster care longer.
There’s less support and resources to help African American families break the cycles of
generational poverty and overcome the challenges like substance abuse or a history of
physical abuse that played a part in the child being removed from the home in the first
place. POC and specifically African American families are struggling and not being
provided the preventative tools to avoid children being removed from the home in the
first place.

In your experience what have you found to be the most common factor as to why
children are in foster care?

The three main reasons why children are removed is because they’ve been abused,
abandoned and neglected. This looks different in every case but these examples of
trauma can have life changing effects.

Let’s say a person discovers that a child in their community(school, church,
neighbor, etc) is in foster care what can they do to make that child feel valued and

We need to see children in foster care as children. If a child is adopted into a new
home, that home has to make him/her feel like family at all times. It’s so important that
we stop treating youth in care as if they’re different. They know their story and they just
want to be loved and accepted like everyone else. Don’t ask insensitive questions, don’t
share their personal business with others and treat them as you would anyone else.

What kind of impact does it have on kids when they receive items like pajamas or
a journal?

Comfort items give children security. Pajamas make our youth feel comfortable when
they’re moving from home to home. Journals give our children a safe place to express
their problems or fears. Precious Dreams Foundation focuses on fulfilling the need for
comfort and our signature comfort bags promote a healthy sleeping environment.

If someone is looking to help or be involved with Precious Dreams what can they

Visit us at to make a financial contribution or sign up for
our newsletter. Until further notice, we’re not accepting in-kind donations for the safety
of our staff and the children that we serve.

Precious Dreams Foundation is providing everyone the opportunity to bring some hope
and comfort to children who desperately need it. If you were ever wondering what you
could do to bring hope and help the world from your corner of it please consider
donating to Precious Dreams Foundation. You can be the difference in a child’s life.

Journalist: Vanessa Newell