"A huge part of what drives me to advocate for these children and families is my role as a mother"
~Chrystal Smith, Co-Founder of Foster Village Austin~
Who is a woman leader/mentor in your life and what impact has she had on your life and career?
My mom become a mother at 17 with countless odds stacked against her. She managed to overcome every hurdle in her path with the determination to create a new legacy for her children. My two brothers and I went on to become the first in our family to graduate from college and break cycles of dysfunction.
How did your leadership role at Foster Village develop? What is your story?
It started from personal experience as a foster parent where I was able to get a front-line's view of the various gaps that seemed to be overlooked at the time. The difficulties we experienced led to a grass-roots community movement to work on filling those gaps. I saw a need for the community to play a more active role in caring for our children and families in crisis. Once we started connecting the dots between the community and the needs, it snowballed into what is now Foster Village Inc. We've served thousands of children and caregivers and now have 5 affiliate locations nationwide (all in less than 3 years!). The three pillars of the Foster Village mission are to Equip, Connect, and Advocate for our most vulnerable through the lens of "community beyond the system."
A goal of this campaign is to shed light on the statement that "Women are making a difference in Texas child welfare." What are your thoughts on this? Can you speak into this statement on behalf of Foster Village?
A huge part of what drives me to advocate for these children and families is my role as a mother, especially to my daughter. During her time in foster care, she did not have a voice. I want to model for her that when our vulnerable neighbors are in this position, it is our responsibility to give them that voice. I see this on a daily basis with women in the role of Foster Mom, CASA worker, Caseworker, and so many other critical roles that women have as advocates for our most vulnerable. These are not glamorous jobs but they are what I believe make the biggest difference in this world.
Have you faced challenges in your leadership role as a woman? If so how did you or are you over coming them?
One of the most common challenges I hear women in leadership talk about is the "imposter syndrome." Culturally, we have not always been modeled many examples of women in leadership positions. So it can feel as though we are imposters and/or unqualified when stepping into a position of pioneering change. In reality, though, I believe women tend to be the most equipped in envisioning and paving the way for the clearest and most effective path to change for the better.
If there was one statement you could deliver to the youth and families in your community in light of this special month celebrating the accomplishments of women, what would it be?
We love you, we see you, and we are with you. You have a village of mothers, sisters, and daughters who are standing by to meet you in the gaps where we can walk together on the path to a brighter future.