March 2011Vol. 12, No. 2Leadership Initiatives for Youth in Foster Care
Many jurisdictions and local and national organizations have developed leadership initiatives, programs, and training for youth currently or formerly in foster care. These programs recruit and then train and mentor youth so that the youth can participate and offer their expertise in a variety of areas, for example, as:
- Members of advisory boards
- Public speakers on foster care
- Trainers to child welfare workers and other professionals
- Liaisons to other youth in foster care or in transition to independent living
Leadership initiatives offer a way to incorporate youth input into policies that affect children and youth in foster care. Youth, working as partners within organizations, advocacy groups, and agencies, can have a real impact on outcomes for themselves and for other youth in foster care and those transitioning to adulthood.
The following is a list of just a few of the State youth leadership initiatives (with websites):
- California's Youth Connection: http://www.calyouthconn.org
- New York's Youth in Progress: http://www.youthinprogress.org
- Maine's Youth Leadership Advisory Team: http://www.ylat.org
- Oregon's Foster Youth Connection: http://www.oryouthconnection.org
In addition, Casey Family Services recently published a report of its work with youth in foster care in Connecticut, describing the creation of the Youth Advocacy Leadership Academy, the experiences of youth who were able to testify before the State legislature, and tips for jurisdictions that want to create similar programs. Read Amplifying Youth Voices to Advance Child Welfare System Reform:
http://www.caseyfamilyservices.org/userfiles/pdf/Pub-Amplifying-Youth-Voices_Final.pdf (1,450 KB)
The following two national organizations offer lists of State youth leadership programs:
- The National Resource Center for Youth Development website can generate a list of organizations by State at http://www.nrcyd.ou.edu/state-pages (in the right navigation bar, check "Youth leadership activities" and "Submit").
- FosterClub maintains an extensive list of Youth Advisory Boards and Youth Councils at http://groups.fosterclub.com (scroll down the page to see links to groups across the country).
Several national groups offer summer internships for youth to provide them with leadership opportunities and training. These include: