Over the past two weeks, The Imprint has profiled and analyzed the policy recommendations made this summer by participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 11 former foster youths who completed Congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, with support from the Sara Start Fund.
Below is a complete list of links to each of those profiles. We strongly recommend that you read each of these proposals. FYI is a really great program that takes people with real experience in the system, and exposes them to people and information on Capitol Hill that can help shape policy ideas that adults might miss.
Here are a few patterns that emerged to us at The Imprint as we produced these profiles:
Help Youth Take Control
Kellie Henderson proposed a training for all new foster youth about what to expect and to identify the roles of different adults in the system.
Jane Krienke wants youth to make the call about whether birth parents can contact them after a termination of parental rights, and for the court and law enforcement to respect that.
Darrah Hall wants to use peer advocacy to help older foster youth think about their future plans, with an eye toward remaining in foster care after 18.
The common denominator there: help foster youth help themselves by empowering foster youths with more control and knowledge about their rights.
Ensure and Protect Identity
Aging out of foster care, or transitioning into a new family, is hard enough. Making a youth in that situation deal with credit problems, or a lack of identifying documents, is shameful.
Two interns made powerful recommendations on this issue. Kaylia Ervin pushed for early checks (and freezes when appropriate) on credit. Dominique Freeman advocated for an amendment to pending legislation that would guarantee certain ID documentation to older foster youths; she believes this process should start much earlier.
Get Ahead on Mental Health Issues
The very first FYI proposal we analyzed, by Amnoni Myers, called for foster parent trainings aimed at helping them understand the impact of adverse childhood experiences and trauma.
Ta’Kijah Randolph worries about the extent to which schools mistake mental health issues as learning disabilities, which might stifle the academic progress of a good student who just had a traumatic personal experience.
Emily Satifka was never screened for mental health issues after being removed from horrific conditions at the age of 10. It should have happened in the first 30 days, she argues in her proposal.
Not every mental health issue amounts to a long-term commitment to therapy and psychotropic drugs. Some youths will require that, especially among those who suffer severe neglect and abuse.
But others might just need screening, some immediate intervention, and short-term help with the painful adjustments going on in their lives. What these three women suggest is that this isn’t something the system should get around to; the clock should start when foster care starts.
Click below to read any of the FYI proposals
- Trauma training for caregivers
- An empowerment/comfort curriculum for new foster youth
- Internship-track career programs for aging-out teens
- Increase the number foster youth opting into 18+ foster care through youth empowerment training
- Preventive action on identity theft, credit fraud
- Placement stability for infants
- Allow youth to dictate court order on parent contact
- Unfettered access to birth, health, and identification documents
- Child welfare system protections for detained or deported parents
- Preventing the misuse of special education with foster youth
- Imposing timelines on health screenings for foster youth
John Kelly is editor-in-chief for The Imprint.