Foster Youth Summit
Bringing everyone to the table

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Youth who spend their teenage years in foster care are likely to age out of care facing challenges as they move to early adulthood. Federal and state laws have mandated what county social services are required to provide, including counseling, housing, social services, development transition, and permanency plans.

Additional support for foster youth can come from the type of care setting they are provided, support from school systems, county social services, and non-profits.  However, the current state of these foster youth services is fragmented and in disarray. Many of these programs are operated independently and have limited ability to affect positive outcomes for foster youth.  

Led by president and CEO Stephanie Bray, conversations were started in the office about how does our organization do more for this overlooked population.  As a convener, United Way wanted to play a larger role to address and find solutions to these systematic issues but wanted to include the most important audience – the youth that are in the system.  Right now, United Way supports foster youth by funding hundreds of IDA Savings Accounts each year and life skills workshops with our Women United action group, but still want to do more? We wanted to listen to those who are affected and not tell them what we think they should need to succeed.  

On April 5, 2019, more than 130 community members participated in our first ever Foster Youth Summit.  This summit brought together foster youth, service providers, and educators hoping to discuss the realities of the system.  The goal of the summit was to identify key stakeholders to lead the effort to develop and coordinate resources and services to increase foster youth outcomes.  

The summit began with a moderator and key stakeholder panel discussion foster youth outcomes and how the data relates to the panelists’ area of expertise.  During this forum, attendees discussed the challenge foster youth faced and uncovered a number of issues/needs including trauma-informed training for service providers, permanent relationships that last into adulthood, financial resources to assist with housing, employment training, mental and physical healthcare.

Following, was the first of two of the Facilitated Workgroup Sessions at the audience’s tables.  This session features a brief framing of the priority area followed by interactive dialogue. This first workgroup objective will be to set a vision and high-level goals to increase foster youth outcomes. 

Over lunch, the audience heard from Jenifer Rodriguez J.D., the Executive Director of the Youth Law Center,an organization that advocates to transform foster care and juvenile justice systems across the country so youth can thrive. Personally, Jennifer spent many years of her childhood in foster care and juvenile justice facilities, and has spent her life advocating to ensure justice, compassion and opportunity for system involved youth.  After Jennifer’s presentation, there were riveting conversations from local service providers who highlighted their work and how they work to ensure foster youth achieve better outcomes. 

Closing the session, the second workgroup session built on from the earlier conversations and categorize additional resources including partnerships, funding, relationships, and policies needed to accomplish objectives. 

Moving forward, United Way will convene an action group that will be compiled from interested attendees to address the needs that were uncovered and will release a summary report of key findings in early May.

Thank you to all that attended and supported this event!