This morning I attended the Foster Youth and Alumni Leadership Summit put on by The Mockingbird Society. This was one of the most amazing presentations I’ve ever attended. Groups of foster youth from each of the regions spend the conference organizing presentations on how to improve the foster care experience.
The presentations were powerful, as you might expect, because they are coming from inside the system. The big ideas we heard were:
- Improve the response time it takes for a social worker to get back to youth.
- Safe housing, particularly for alumni. At age 18 they often no longer have state support and wind up homeless.
- Improving sibling connects, with some real-life examples of how to do it.
- Provide adequate recognition and diagnosis of mental abuse of foster youth.
- Provide a sense of normalcy for teenagers in the system by allowing them to stay the night at a friend’s house while the background check is being completed.
- Pregnant and parenting youth in care do not feel they are given adequate information or support before, during, and after birth.
Hearing this stuff is difficult, because you want these youth to have the same kinds of experiences your own kids get. Hearing that they often don’t get a phone call returned from a social worker for a month means that they can’t go on field trips, or stay over at a friend’s house, or other things you and I take for granted our kids can do, because we can make decisions on the spot.
This group has a good track record of advocacy – the youth lobby for their proposals to improve the system and we’ve put a number into place. It’s always more complex than you want it to be, but that’s the nature of a system that supports thousands of young people.
The Mockingbird Society does good work.