In early February, the National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council hosted a webinar on its most recent policy focus on preventing unnecessary removal of children from their families. Three former foster youth – Dani Townsend, David Hall and Nico’Lee Biddle – presented the group’s findings from their survey on the subject and recommendations that will be shared with federal stakeholders.
Hall shared a few highlights from the survey, which included responses from 200 current and former foster youth. Among them, 59 percent of respondents did not feel they were included in the investigation that led to their placement in foster care. Another 55 percent of respondents were not confident in their child welfare professional’s commitment to keeping their families together.
“Our families deserve and need to be supported,” said Hall, who was in and out of care before aging out in Oklahoma.
The Council’s identified priorities on preventing unnecessary removal include:
- Engaging youth during the investigation and when developing prevention services.
- Not using removal as a way to punish parents.
- Not removing a youth because of the way one worker views a family.
- Educating child welfare professionals about the importance of prevention services.
- Increase support to address the substance abuse and mental health crises facing many parents and families.
- Connect families to services when a removal to foster care is not made.
There are 22 members of the council, which was created in partnership with the Foster Care Alumni of America and FosterClub, and supported by Casey Family Programs. Consisting of former foster youth, the council focuses its work on areas they’ve identified as priorities: aging out, crossover youth, mental health, normalcy, well-being, social capital, homelessness, vulnerability, prevention.
“The council is very excited about the attention this specific priority has received and the greater conversation on supporting young people and their families while trying to find alternatives to removal when possible,” said Akin Abioye, policy specialist for FosterClub, one of the partner organizations that administer the Council. “More specifically, in the coming months, the council will be launching another survey and bringing together national partners to further engage in the work of using its priority as a framework and a guide for preventing unnecessary entry into foster care in jurisdictions across the country.”
Last year, the group hosted a similar webinar on homelessness among former foster youth, which is available on their website. Currently, the organization has another survey open to foster youth on accessing social capital for youth who experience foster care, and will host another webinar in May.