For the last decade, the collective voice of the National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council has shifted federal child welfare policy conversations. Using our lived experience to inform key stakeholders, we have helped shift the direction of federal foster care policy practice to include prevention, support, and reducing the vulnerability of foster youth to negative outcomes.
From reducing the vulnerability of foster youth to trafficking and informing 2014’s Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, to educating the legislators involved in 2018’s Family First Prevention Services Act, to 2023’s impactful Supporting Immigrant Youth and Children priority, the Council has used our collective viewpoint to remind stakeholders that human rights, prevention, and family support is key to creating equitable outcomes for foster youth and their families.
We’ve inspired exciting conversations and system change in the child welfare system over the last 10 years. But what is it like being on the Council? Here’s what some current and former members have to say:
“Working with incredibly motivated young people from a diverse array of different backgrounds, who have left the foster care system and achieved in so many different fields. The invaluable experience of being on the Council provides me with a positive feedback loop of succeeding and wanting to succeed alongside my peers.”
–Catherine Szkop, current Council member
“With the Council, we’re able to come together as a representative of the United States, which is really awesome. And I think it made our voice more powerful and taken a little more seriously. Just from the fact that we were a united front when we did come together and commenting on legislature, or coming up with different policies or things that were important to us as a group.”
– Latasha Pearson, former Council member
“Your advocacy may impact and will impact lifelong those that are going to continue to come into our child welfare system. We're just hoping to be at the back door to be able to put those pillars and the cement and add the foundation in place so that you don't have to go through what we went through. Do the work.”
– April Curtis-Rivera, Board Chair of Foster Care Alumni of America and Council partner
“The first time I was on the council, I knew I didn't know what that arena was truly like. I didn't know how to really participate until a year or two into the actual program. Like I was just like, you know, what is my role, how do I step up? Because it was intimidating at first – you step on this board and there's people with bachelors, masters, and they have all this worldwide knowledge and I was like, they're all leaders in their own right from their own state. How can I compete with that, right? And then I was like, It's not a competition. It's just about elevating each other, right?”
– Kodi Baughman, Foster Care Alumni of America and former Council member
“I have enjoyed making such great networks and connections with my child welfare peers.”
–Bianca Bennett, current Council member
Want to hear more? Click the links below to listen to Child Welfare Information Gateway’s podcast about lived experience and the Council.
This is Part 2 of a 2 part series. Check out the first part on why lived experience matters!