Celebrating the Voice of Our Youth

Celebrating the Voice of Our Youth

I spent yesterday morning with 100+ older and emancipated foster youth at the California Youth Connection (CYC) Legislative Conference. What a privilege to be among these bright, passionate, leaders. All of them have stories that can bring tears. One youth had 15 placements in three months because of angry felt about all the people who had been taken away from him. Two told me about their failed adoptions. One had ended up on the street after the second failed adoption. Several talked about losing access to their younger siblings after the siblings were adopted.

If only, I thought, they had received services to address their histories of trauma, separation, and loss.

  • If only their adoptive parents had been trained to understand the relationship between trauma and behavior, and been given the skills they needed and wanted to be able help their children through their troubled waters to the shores of healing and resolution.
  • If only our child welfare system hadn’t unknowingly added to their trauma and losses.
  • If only there had been mental health professionals with specialized training and experience in adoption/permanency clinical issues that the families could have turned to.
  • If only Families NOW’s 2014 legislation (AB 1790, Dickinson) and resulting recommendations for removing barriers to access to mental health providers with specialized training and experience in adoption/permanency clinical issues had been available when these youth first needed it.
  • If only our current legislation (AB 1879 McCarty) requiring the provision of child-centered specialized permanency services that had been introduced and passed a decade ago when we first knew the success of these programs in achieving and sustaining permanent families for children and youth who many thought were “unadoptable.”
  • If only Families NOW had started sooner.
  • If only we will soon be able to look back at 2016 as the year when the child welfare system transformed so that no youth leaves foster care without a lifelong permanent family.

On Monday these young people will visit legislators to advocate for AB 1060 (Leno), a CYC sponsored bill that will create a required meeting of the youth remaining in foster care with the family adopting their sibling(s). The purpose of the meeting is simple – before you cut me off from my siblings, meet me and see that I care about my siblings and will be a positive factor in their lives. Families NOW will be advocating for their bill.

I had a Resource Table at the conference to engage them in Families NOW’s current legislation (AB 1879 – McCarty) to improve permanency outcomes for children in foster care. Over 25 of the youth took the time to chat with me, read two versions of our fact sheet, and give me feedback on which they thought would be most effective. They didn’t take the task lightly. Each gave me a thoughtful response and engaged me with questions and comments about our legislation. All said the bill was so important and thanked Families NOW for doing the work. Click this link to read the fact sheet they chose. AB 1879 fact sheet v4 – bullets

Gail Johnson Vaughan, Director Emerita / Chief Permanency Officer.