On Thursday, April 29, 2021, the National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council held a webinar to discuss opportunities and priorities available under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
A partnership between Foster Care Alumni of America, FosterClub, and Casey Family Programs, the council’s mission is to strategically gather the voices and experiences of foster youth and alumni to improve the U.S. child welfare system. They have released 18 priorities since 2012. Listed below are the most recent council priorities:
Council Priorities on Older Youth:
- Well-Being: We need continuity of health services that support our well-being. Mental health needs to be prioritized as we transition to adulthood.
- High-Quality Legal Representation: Young people should have access to high-quality legal representation.
- Aging Out: Youth should have access to resources and a realistic transition plan to ensure they are on track to succeed when they exit foster care, especially if they age out of foster care.
- Normalcy: Promoting normalcy is essential for the youth’s well-being. In an ideal world, we want a young person to have access to a healthy support system that encourages them to realize their dreams through education, apprenticeship, and support from family and friends.
Council Priorities on Special Populations:
- Train staff, caregivers, and youth themselves on how to protect youth from sex trafficking.
- Prioritize gender-equitable policies that ensure all expecting and/or parenting youth receive access to legal, prevention, and independent living services.
- Youth who have been abused or neglected are not automatically delinquents; youth who enter dual jurisdiction should maintain support from child welfare.
- Promote inclusive spaces and mandate training on LGBTQIA2-S so that youth who identify as LGBTQIA2-S feel comfortable, safe, and supported.
- When states and jurisdictions are considering Family First Act candidacy for prevention services, youth with diminished social capital should not be overlooked as candidates for services.
- Acknowledge and Implement Cultural Awareness and Inclusivity.
In addition to their council priorities, prevention and current opportunities were elevated during the hour. The National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council emphasized two provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, the Family First Prevention Services Act and The Supporting Foster Youth and Families through the Pandemic Act. Like many organizations, they urged community organizations to pressure states and jurisdictions to take advantage of Family First’s current 100 percent reimbursement for preventive care services.
Currently, only plans of 12 states meet ACF’s evidence-based criteria and are in the implementation phase, while 10 states have submitted their plans. They also urged community organizations to pressure states and jurisdictions to implement these Chafee and ETV provisions to meet the needs of young people and families.