The groups expect to finalize the merger by mid-July
Two of the country’s largest foster youth advocacy groups — California Youth Connection and Foster Youth in Action — announced today their plans to merge.
California Youth Connection is a political powerhouse in the state with the largest foster care population in the country, focused on getting foster youth involved in developing the policies that shape their lives. Since its founding in 1988, the youth-led group has helped push through multiple major legislative reforms, most famously Assembly Bill 12, which created California’s pioneering extended foster care program.
Foster Youth in Action is an offshoot of CYC, founded in 2008 by members who wanted to spread the proven youth-led organizing model throughout the country. The group has since developed an international network of foster youth advocacy groups throughout the United States and Canada.
In a joint press release, the groups touted decades of experience, an established national network, a shared commitment to youth-led practices and “some of the strongest leadership development and advocacy programs available for current and former foster youth.”
“This is truly a win-win-win situation,” Liz Squibb, interim executive director of Foster Youth in Action said in the press release. “FYA will remain a national network, but in coming together with CYC, we will be able to collectively expand our capacity, our resources and our impact, while staying true to our youth-led and youth-centered approach.”
Squibb said Foster Youth in Action initiated the conversation about the two groups joining in part as a way to pool limited philanthropic funds directed toward faster youth. The organization would have been able to continue independently, she said, ”but it gets really slim and we’re both doing the same work.”
Oftentimes, that work has even been collaborative, CYC Executive Director Janay Eustace added. The two organizations worked together in recent years to develop the organizing and empowerment curriculum that Foster Youth in Action uses to train member groups in its network.
Throughout the course of 2020 and early this year, the two groups met with youth members to discuss the possibility of banding together and explore their priorities for forming a joint venture. On June 5, CYC’s board approved the merger.
The announcement comes on the heels of what proved to be a very tumultuous pandemic year for California Youth Connection. The group’s former executive director resigned amid scrutiny last March after abruptly announcing plans to restructure and laying off more than half the staff — many of them former foster youth — in the stressful and uncertain early weeks of COVID-related shutdowns.
The impacted employees were ultimately offered their jobs back, and in December CYC named Eustace, a staffer and longtime member, as the new executive director.
Both groups will keep their names under the merger, a point Eustace said was important to youth members. FYIA will become the national arm of CYC. The finer organizational details and collective advocacy goals — including whether or not they will advocate at the federal level — will be something members will determine together once the merger is official, she added, which is expected to happen by mid-July.
“These things can often be simple acquisitions,” Squibb said, “but this was really a sisterhood — two organizations really looking at what is best for their members.”