SACRAMENTO (KPIX 5) – Lily Colby fought for herself and her siblings as children growing up in the foster care system. Now she helps other young people in foster care find their voice.
Colby’s advocacy on behalf of foster children and her talent for legislative policy writing brought the 34-year-old attorney to Sacramento. His childhood experiences spawned Colby with a deep empathy for others.
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“I have to be able to help people when they’re having a hard time,” Colby said. “I grew up in poverty and in the foster care system. And I know what it’s like to move from place to place, and be separated from my brothers and sisters, and see injustice or experience it first hand, or that it happens to my siblings or adoptive siblings.
It was this lived experience, coupled with a pandemic career reset, that inspired Colby to start his own online business, aptly called With Lived Experience. Colby hopes it will provide a safe space for children in foster care and other marginalized groups such as LGBTQ+, non-binary, and polyamorous people who identify or question, and those with mental health issues to find a community, develop skills and acquire knowledge. Colby herself identifies as queer and uses the pronouns she and they interchangeably.
“There is a bill of rights for young people in foster care,” Colby explained. “And a few years ago the foster care ombudsman surveyed young people who are in care, and only 3% even knew they had rights. And young people in foster care have a lot of rights.
Rights such as the possibility of seeing biological brothers and sisters. Colby and his younger brother David were separated as adopted children by a legal system they did not understand.
“I remember going to court and not knowing what was going on,” Colby recalled of his past in the foster care system. “And feel like it was a waste of time, or not go to court at all.”
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It’s a cycle Colby is determined to break by urging policymakers, judges and even other lawyers to include the foster community.
“What I’m trying to do is push the system not to make decisions about people without them,” Colby said. “True empowerment is saying that we will listen to you because you know more about your situation than we do.”
Colby’s focus groups and volunteer coaching have been successful so far. She is now able to work around 30 hours a week, consulting with nonprofits and government agencies so she has more time to spend with family and friends.
Colby has a busy schedule, as she also serves on the board of directors of Services for Children, a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services to children in the Bay Area, a position for which she has been recruited.
But Colby says launching his new venture also reflected his own lived experience.
“Everyday isn’t easy,” Colby shared. “I would say that I regularly have setbacks. I have ideas and partnerships where you know what you hope doesn’t happen. There’s a lot of burnout … struggling in poverty or in the foster care system. And for me, I can’t look away from that.
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