Fifteen years of YWP foster care system advocacy has led to significant changes in the lives of older youth in foster care.YWP has secured the development and passage of laws and policies in rights, income, transportation, employment, and education. We secured contractor regulations for group homes and independent living programs. We secured $2 million each year as budget allocations spent directly on youth stipends, wages, and services. Our scrutiny and youth testimonials (link to FCC testimony) on the treatment, performance, and high costs of agency departments and contractors who serve young people resulted in higher standards for agency and contractor work. With this legal and policy framework in place, our work now is more focused on outreach and implementation and insuring the vast dollars that pass through the CFSA coffers each year ($240 million for 1,200 youth). On the individual side, YWP has reached more than 500 foster youth in our 15 years – providing support, training, coaching, jobs, social service connections, and opportunities to change the system they are part of – which they have. Here are some examples of this impact:
On the individual side, YWP has reached more than 500 foster youth in our 15 years – providing support, training, coaching, jobs, social service connections, and opportunities to change the system they are part of – which they have. Here are examples of Individual Growth:
- One former foster youth found full time employment after looking for more than a year.
- One young mother entered a National External Diploma Program (NEDP) to obtain her high school diploma. She plans to enroll in college the fall of 2016. She found employment through a Department of Employment Services program after looking for more than six months. She advocated for herself so that she could be assigned to a worksite related to her anticipated career path.
- Two former foster youth who were couch surfing found housing in a transitional living program. Now they are members of the housing program advisory board and are advocating for major improvement to the program so that it will be serve and support youth residents.
- One homeless youth enrolled in college preparation classes with a local charter school so that she can avoid taking remedial classes when she enrolls in community college in the fall.
- One former foster youth and currently homeless and living in a supportive housing program for LGBT youth is advocating for improvements to the program.
- One foster care is actively planning to enter college in the fall and has been working with her school to plan and prepare.
- One youth who is having a baby this spring is actively advocating for a better housing placement and for increased support as she plans to transition out of care.
- One foster youth who started college fall of 2015 and struggled a great deal successfully completed her first semester and is doing well her second semester.
- One young woman who struggled with homelessness for the past two years found housing within a supportive housing program for young adults. She also joined AmeriCorps working as a peer mediator within a high school and she is preparing to return to college during the fall of 2016.
- One youth whose case with CFSA was closed in June 2014 successfully advocated to receive her aftercare package after it being five months late.
- One youth successfully advocated to change her CFSA placement moving into a more safe and secure placement. She also advocated by emailing, calling and scheduling meetings to get a tutor from CFSA because due to placement changes her school work suffered and she was at risk of failing her classes.
Examples of Institutional Impact:
Led the development and passage of the Youth Rights and Responsibilities Amendment Act of 2012, signed into law on January 22, 2013, which provides more than 40 rights in education, privacy, health, transportation, and other issues to DC foster youth.
Led the development and passage of the Foster Youth Transit Subsidy which will extend the $30 DCPS monthly student transportation card to 400 foster youth ages 19 and 20 starting October 1, 2013;
Led the development and passage of internal CFSA policies that established a $1,464 a year clothing voucher system for youth in care, a $100 monthly mandatory allowance, and an increase the independent living stipend for youth in care starting November 2013.
Organized Yes Youth Can: Confronting the Challenges of Aging Out (January 22, 2009), a youth-led hearing held by the Committee on Human Service chair CM Tommy Wells. Featuring more than 25 witnesses, the hearing examined the experiences and challenges of older youth in education, employment, and emancipation. “I’d like to acknowledge the Young Women's Project and how effective they are at having youth take part in their government and to really make changes,” said Chairman Tommy Wells. “ It’s certainly a model. I don’t think we’ve had a better hearing.”
In 2001, working with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth, and Families – we helped develop and advocate for the passage of regulations for group homes (Chapter 24) and independent living program contractors (Chapter 26). These regulations provided first ever guidelines for congregate care conduct and monitoring, increased the quality of care for youth residents, and established youth rights in several key areas. Since 2003, YWP has monitored the quality of services in group homes and ILPs through surveys, workshops, and individual youth testimonials and report progress to City Council as part of the annual CFSA oversight hearing.
Released two youth-created Handbooks, Taking Matters into Your Own Hands (March 2009) and How to Deal with the System: Important Information that Will Help You (June 2006). Both publications provide more than 200 pages of essential information on rights, regulations, and how to navigate the system – including articles, resource pieces, and personal stories on the court system, social workers, monitors, group homes, judges, educational and vocational opportunities, laws, and more. The Handbooks were distributed – via paper, email, and website – to 1000s of youth in care, CFSA staff, GALS, child advocacy groups, families, and others.
Trained more than 500 teens in group homes and ILPs with 5-15 hours per participant of training that focused on Group Home Rights and Navigation Trainings including: 1) increasing life, self-advocacy, and leadership skills that will help teens build independence and self-reliance, take on responsibility, and transition out of foster care and 2) Providing skills and information they need to stand up for their rights, navigate systems, monitor regulation implementation, and take advantage of opportunities
Summer Leadership Institutes (SLIs) brought together more than 200 foster youth and adult caregivers each summer from 2004-2010 for skills building and dialogue on critical issues. Leadership Institutes provide a teen-led forum for foster youth and adult caregivers and advocates to receive training and information, network, share experience, speak out on issues, and solve problems in the system. The event typically features 8-12 workshops organized into three tracks: Learning and Sharing, System Resources, and Dialogue.
Released three teen directed and created video PSAs on the realities of youth aging out –one focusing on permanence, one on safety net services, and one on education. All capture the harrowing experiences of teens preparing to age out of the foster care system (August 2010).