Ryan Young is an international adoptee, former foster youth turned into a fierce advocate for his peers in and out of the foster care system has the distinguished honor of serving as a Young Leader at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) selected by the Assistant Secretary Lynn A. Johnson. Ryan currently serves as the Vice President to Arizona’s Department of Child Safety Youth Empowerment Council where he meets with DCS Leadership and young people all across Arizona to transform the child welfare system through policy changes, meaningful conversations led by youth, and invitations to various events to share stories about experiences and efforts towards intentional systemic transformation with our young people at the table with leaders. He also serves as a Federal NYTD Reviewer at JBS International, Chair of Arizona’s Chapter at Foster Care Alumni of America and an Arizona Delegate for National Foster Youth Institute. Ryan’s primary focus and responsibilities include communicating with other Young Leaders with lived experience across the country and engaging in both adoption and permanency initiatives including but not limited to speaking at National roundtables, increasing social media engagement about permanency efforts, and ensuring we reduce the amount of awaiting youth and young adults who are longing for permanent, and loving families. On June 17, 2019, Ryan aged out of Arizona’s child welfare system at age 18 without a loving, and permanent family. Ryan strongly feels that every child deserves to be with a biological or chosen family, and if that isn’t possible; other permanency supports and connections should be in place chosen by the youth. 

I’m “ALL-IN” because we must continue to make these important changes in the child welfare system: 

1) Foster care as it was created to be used as last resort, primary prevention practice as a focus on child welfare systems!

We need a child welfare system that is tailored towards preventing the entry and re-entry of youth, less involvement of families in child welfare solely on the basis of poverty, race and other factors, and reimaging a child well-being system where families and youth can thrive. 

2) Every child deserves a permanent, loving family; and the young person’s age shouldn’t disqualify them towards being adopted!

We need to work with families who are looking to adopt and to accept youth of any age because far too many older youth age out of the system without a loving family to call home, without supports in place and being loved should be unconditional – regardless of age. We all deserve to be loved and have a home to go to!

3) Young people should have opportunities to speak about their lived-experiences at all levels of the decision-planning process and be compensated for their time, efforts, and expertise! Young people who experience the foster care system and choose to share their story, time, and experiences should have opportunities to share them. While most foster youth advocates work on a volunteer basis; their time and expertise should be as valuable as the adults in the child welfare systems and therefore compensated for their advocacy efforts.