How a woman is helping young adults move out of foster care

How a woman is helping young adults move out of foster care

Actress Angela Featherstone has starred in popular TV shows like Friends and Seinfeld over the past two decades, but behind the scenes she was battling the scars of a painful childhood.

“I would characterize the first 16 years of my life as physically, emotionally, psychologically, and ultimately sexually abusive,” Featherstone told Yahoo Life. “At the very least, there was ongoing criminal negligence and a lot of abandonment.”

At 16, Featherstone, originally from Nova Scotia, was placed in the foster care system in Canada, an experience that shaped her life and, in many ways, compounded her trauma. Today, she is a strong advocate for children in the system and the founder of Fostering Care, a non-profit organization committed to healing young adults (18-21) who are aging outside of the foster care system. The program consists of a three-month course during which students receive a teaching certificate in a healing modality, such as meditation, breathwork, or yoga. Additionally, the program hosts guest lectures on topics such as nutrition, addiction, and various life skills.

Featherstone knows firsthand how crucial these healing tools can be for young people transitioning to adulthood after foster care. She recalls being placed in a group home at age 16 and witnessing sexual activity, violence and drug use, while experiencing a lack of proper food and care. “I kept being placed in these group homes and I kept running away because I hated the group homes. They were really bad and I didn’t feel safe there, so I kept going,” says Featherstone.

But on the streets, she found herself facing even darker threats.

Angela Featherstone in her youth. (Photo via Instagram @angela_featherstone)

“I was trafficked, I was just raped all the time. I wasn’t getting money and I wasn’t standing on any street corner. It was different from what I imagined in my head Featherstone says, “I hadn’t felt it could be so subtle, because it could happen to you and you don’t even realize it’s happening to you.”

This year, more than 23,000 children will be excluded from the child protection system and many of them will face threats such as homelessness, incarceration or trafficking. Studies in the United States and elsewhere consistently report that 50-90% of child victims of sex trafficking have been implicated in the child welfare system – which Featherstone believes is based on systemic issues that allow the dark world of sex trafficking to thrive and target the most vulnerable youth.

“I just see this image of the foster family being like the people holding pens for the cattle before they’re slaughtered: culling basically turns 18 in the state of California,” Featherstone says. “The foster care pipeline for pedophiles is alive and well.”

Featherstone was eventually caught by the police, arrested, and charged with “immorality”, which she later learned was prostitution. At 17½, she begged the judge to emancipate her, which he did, and with her freedom regained, she borrowed money from a friend and took a bus to Toronto. Within a year, she had become one of Canada’s most in-demand models, before moving to New York to expand her career.

Soon Hollywood came knocking on the door, and in addition to hit TV shows, she landed roles in movies like The Wedding Singer and Air conditioning. Despite her success, Featherstone says she started drinking and struggled to find solid ground.

Angela Featherstone acting in "Seinfeld"  in 1998 (Picture: Getty)

Angela Featherstone, right, in Seinfeld in 1998. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I was at the height of my acting career, and a couple of really difficult cases happened at work, and I didn’t have the infrastructure to handle them. When they happened, I broke down and I sought comfort in homelessness,” says Featherstone. “I became homeless. I literally threw all my money at whoever wanted to take it. I just wanted to start from scratch.”

Featherstone says she carried a childlike sadness and often wondered why her youth had been so traumatic. In 2011, she went to UCLA’s writing program and started writing a memoir. Featherstone has since shared her experiences with sex trafficking and forgiveness in essays. In 2016, however, Featherstone suffered another setback in his recovery, and that moment began to align his painful past with his purpose.

“I had a very difficult year and I almost didn’t make it. I almost killed myself. It was so painful,” she told Yahoo Life. “It was time to really heal the deep wounds. And it was so excruciating.”

Through different therapies, yoga and writing, Featherstone says she found her purpose in helping young adults who survived the foster care system. In 2020, she began developing the Fostering Care framework, which includes teaching healing modalities aimed at balancing mind, body, and emotions.

“I’ve been interested in working on codependency, becoming individualized, and also working on intimacy and vulnerability skills. If you’ve seen all of your physical, mental, and emotional boundaries completely ignored or completely violated, the most often it’s very difficult to have a truly successful life,” says Featherstone.

Featherstone hopes to help young adults see their scars and heal with love. She wants them to return to their communities more whole and prepared to become vital contributors to society who can in turn help others heal – just as she did.

“If I had been loved…if I had received all the things that every child rightfully deserves, I would never have left my hometown,” she says. “I never would have had this huge urge to get out of where I was and change my life and change the world.

—Video produced by Jacquie Cosgrove

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