Over the course of 4 meetings in Washington DC this summer, Over a dozen FosterClub All- Stars had the opportunity the meeting senior Congressional staffers in order to provide their perspective on how the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth can help young people in foster care. Each meeting had a different topic, but there was 1 constant: Youth voice was at the table, thanks to FosterClub's All-Stars and support from Casey Family Programs. Listed below is the notes from FosterClub All-Star Kayla VanDyke who attended one of these meetings:
Networking, Sibling Connection, Youth Engagement, & Mentoring Meeting
The senate caucus meeting on July 30th 2010 concerning additions to the “fostering connections” bill included nearly 30 people from various professions in child welfare and politics. This was just one of many caucus meetings to come concerning the “fostering connections” bill. The July 30th meeting was about discussing how to make Networking, Sibling Connection, Youth Engagement and Mentoring more effective in the bill. The meeting started off with an introduction from the All-Stars who shared a little about their story and their connection to the issues. Then various suggestions concerning networking, sibling connections and youth engagement were debated over and changed based on the input of various professional opinions. Some of the suggestions that were talked about included, whether or not all foster youth should be entitled to a cell phone. The pros and cons that were brought up with this suggestion included that “not every youth has a cell phone” it’s not an essential. However, what the all-stars and many of the other professions said was that “not every child has the state as their parent” and that having a cell phone could lessen some of the disadvantages that foster youth face as a result of not having stability or reliable communication with family and social workers.
Also this suggestions brought up another issue that is prevalent in foster care, birth family relations. While there would be safety regulations that went into providing every child in foster care with a cell phone, preventing birth family contact would be difficult. It was brought up that this might not be a bad thing, that by allowing cell phones the state would be promoting conversations about the issues surrounding birth family re-connection. This is important because statistics show that many foster youth have relations with their birth family immediately, or some time after exiting foster care and that if we don’t deal with the issues surrounding birth family reconnection while they are in care, we risk sending them into a situation that might be catastrophic once they exit care.
One of the more easy conversations was about funding and encouraging foster children to go out for extra curriculars. While there was a unanimous decision that this was a good idea, the issue of funding could not be resolved. Like with many of the suggestions to the “fostering connections” bill, Funding is required. One of the suggestions included having tax write offs for companies who donated to these programs others included working it into the jobs and budgets of foster parents and social workers. Despite the few blips in the conversations about administration and funding of services, the over all feel of the caucus was that of approval and excitement for the suggested changes. The all-stars felt that their input was invaluable and are looking forward to seeing the suggested changes to the bill enacted.