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Dec/Jan 2010Vol. 10, No. 10Youth Leaders Speak Out About Foster Care and Permanency

The 2008 Destination Future: National Youth Leadership Development Conference brought together youth leaders in foster care or formerly in care from around the country to discuss their experiences in foster care and their hopes for the future. The August 2008 conference also gave these young people an opportunity to express their desire for change and recommend improvements to the foster care system. A report from the conference provides a snapshot of these youths' experiences. The conference was sponsored by the National Child Welfare Resource Center for Youth Development (NRCYD) and supported by the Children's Bureau.

The 94 youth and 74 adults in attendance were divided among eight groups, each with a focus topic for discussion:

  • Engaging youth in the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) implementation
  • Extending the Federal foster care program payments to age 21
  • Ensuring youths' success in their academic endeavors
  • Meeting youths' cultural needs while in foster care
  • Involving youth in the court case review process
  • Developing and maintaining youths' connections to family members
  • Ensuring that youth who do not go to college can still find a good-paying job
  • Ensuring that youths' mental health services needs are met

The conference slogan "Nothing about us without us" reflects the desires of foster youth to take an active role in the decisions that affect their lives and develop ways to influence programs and policies. This theme was raised in all of the small-group discussions.

The conference report includes recommendations that came out of the small-group discussions. Appendices include information about training opportunities promoting youth/adult partnerships, detailed comments and suggestions provided by current and former foster youth during the second round of the Child and Family Services Reviews, and background information about NYTD.
The full report of the conference, Destination Future: National Youth Leadership Conference Report, by Jacqueline Smollar, is available online: (PDF 1.11MB)