#FosteringFutures for Youth Aging Out of Care

Monday, February 8th, 2016

VPLC is once again working with Voices for Virginia’s Children on foster care issues.  Below is a guest blog from Amy Woolard , Legislative Director for Voices for Virginia’s Children, previously posted on their website. A column was just published in the Richmond Times Dispatch by Delegate Jennifer McClellan on the need for funding youth who age out of foster care until age 21.

Despite having the lowest rate of youth in our formal foster care system of all the states, and despite positive improvements to our system overall, Virginia still has a long way to go when it comes to connecting older youth in care to permanent families before they turn 18 and “age out” of care.

Virginia still holds the dubious distinction of having the highest rate in the nation of youth aging out of care at age 18. From 2008 to 2015, more than 5375 youth “aged out” of Virginia’s foster care system, meaning they turned 18 years old before being connected to a permanent family through adoption, returning home to parents, or having a relative take custody of them.

We currently have a limited set of services funded at the local/state level for some of these youth up to age 21, but the support is sparse and does not include adequate basic needs such as housing and other daily care needs. It’s a positive step, but we can—and should—do better. Here’s one way we can:

“Fostering Futures“ is the name older youth in foster care have given to a proposed program that we at Voices have been working to bring to Virginia for the past three years—it’s an option under the federal Fostering Connections Act that would broaden the kinds of supports Virginia would offer youth who age out of care. Most especially, it would open up additional federal funding to provide housing for youth, as well as some other living expenses and case management. About 23 other states and the District of Columbia have opted into this federal provision to expand their own programs for 18-21-year-olds in care, and have seen great success in keeping youth in school, employed and housed.

The program will be under consideration by the General Assembly this coming legislative session, which starts in mid-January and runs through mid-March. We’d like to keep up the positive advocacy momentum in support of Fostering Futures, and we need your help!

Here’s how you can help:

Policymakers need to know just how important Fostering Futures is to older youth in foster care and the adults who help support them. We’ve put together an advocacy packet that you can download, print, share, and rely on to help you communicate with policymakers. You can and should express your support “early and often,” and there will also be specific times we’ll ask you to call/write/email/attend committee hearings (if you can). Use these tools to advocate:

1. “Support Fostering Futures” one-pager (PDF): Download, print and share this with policymakers and media.

2. Talking Points on Fostering Futures: A reference document that distills supporting points down to easy “sound bites” to stick to when talking about your support of the program.

3. Legislator Priorities: These are the policymakers who will have the most authority on whether Fostering Futures is included in the final 2016 budget. Email, write, and call them in support of the program, from now until mid-March.

4. Sample Social Media posts: Use these posts on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media accounts. Share widely and often, and don’t forget to use the hashtag #FosteringFutures!

5. Sample script for phone or email advocacy: Use our template for calling, emailing or writing policymakers in support of Fostering Futures. Be sure to adapt this template to include your own personal stories, details and thoughts!

6. Fostering Futures FAQs: We’ve also prepared some general information about the program and our advocacy effort in anticipation of any questions you might have. Please read through and let use know (amy@vakids.org) if you have any further questions!

You can use these tools to communicate your support of Fostering Futures with policymakers, media and the general public anytime, but we will also be calling on everyone to lend their supportive voices at specific times during the session, so please keep this post bookmarked for easy access. Thank you for helping us make sure young people who age out of care have a reliable and accessible path to success as they become adults!

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