FosterClub Young Leaders, Eric Warner, and Joseph DeBiew joined Edwin Daye, a Member of the Birth Parent National Network, in a meeting with 4 Congressional offices and federal stakeholders - all in one day visit to Washington, DC! They visited with Congressional staff and members (see list below with links to their respective Social accounts), and shared their experiences and recommendations for policy and practice improvement- including trauma reduction- with staff at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), in a panel focused on "Voices of Experience: A Conversation with Former Foster Youth and Parents Affected by the Child Welfare System".
They shared their own experiences, discussed how prevention services can support children, youth and families, and ways to reduce harm and trauma to young people and families if removal of a child or young person is necessary. Edwin, Eric, and Joseph also identified supports that were helpful and places where supports could be improved. Edwin discussed the need to fully support parents, especially dads, in the court and reunification process; he also shared the impact that financial supports can have on a family caring for relatives, and how that can reduce trauma for the children to be able to stay with caring adults who they know. Eric shared the importance of providing youth support in addressing their own mental health, normalizing conversations around mental health services, providing multiple avenues and opportunities for young people to connect to supports, reducing inappropriate use of congregate care facilities and providing space for young people to build their social capital. Eric shared some of the recommendations from the National Foster Youth & Alumni Policy Council. Joseph highlighted the need to support young people and families in relationship creation and maintenance - building in normal communication and connection opportunities for young people, kinship caregivers (often grandparents) and parents wherever possible. He also highlighted the need for kinship navigators - recognizing that support could have led to a different outcome for him and his grandparents.
Special thank you to the At-Risk Youth Community of Practice of GAO for their willingness to host, to listen and learn from former foster youth and parents affected by the child welfare system.