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December 2020Vol. 21, No. 9Letter From Jerry Milner Shares Themes From Roundtable Discussions With Young Leaders

A letter from Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner to child welfare leaders highlights themes that emerged from a series of 12 roundtable discussions with youth currently or formerly in foster care.

These themes include the following:

  • Many Young Leaders expressed the importance of staying connected with caseworkers/independent-living coordinators and reported examples of how caseworkers/independent-living coordinators had proactively reached out to ask youth if they were okay and what they might need and stayed in regular contact.
  • Other Young Leaders reported that caseworkers/independent-living coordinators had helped ensure that they had access to cell phones and the internet to maintain connections with family, friends, and other critical supports.
  • Young Leaders also reported systems-level support that had been provided by child welfare agencies, such as changing policy to prevent young people from aging out during the pandemic and efforts to work with colleges and universities to ensure young people could remain in dormitory living.

The Young Leaders also shared some of the challenges they are facing, including the following:

  • Social isolation brought on by the pandemic
  • Mental health and overall well-being issues tied to social isolation
  • Concerns about aging out of foster care during the pandemic without a place to go or means to support themselves
  • Job loss and/or difficulty finding meaningful employment, and the ensuing financial repercussions
  • Safe and secure housing, especially for youth who relied on their college dormitories as their main source of housing
  • Worries about schools and universities shifting to a virtual learning environment due, in part, to concerns about access to technology necessary to learn in a virtual setting
  • Access to health care
  • Reduced access to reliable transportation for many youth due to shutdowns in public transportation or fears of contracting the virus
  • Reunification and adoption finalizations, given challenges with the normal operations of the courts