CYC chapters do community engagement activities to raise awareness about foster care or their local CYC chapters. They can be a step in accomplishing a local issue, a way to engage other foster youth in the chapter, an opportunity for the chapter to give back to their communities, or efforts to raise funds for the chapter.
Some examples of Community Engagement Activities include:
1. Community Dinners: Community Dinners are a great way for chapters to inform their county, community organizations and other community members about the foster care system, a chapter’s policy recommendations, and CYC. Members identify important information they want the community to know about foster care and host a dinner to present this information. Often members will ask the attendees for support on their policy recommendations. Additionally, sometimes chapters will charge attendees, as a way of fundraising for the chapter. CYC Statewide staff has created a Community Dinner Planning Guide to help in planning a dinner.
2. Speak-Outs: Speak-Outs are used to recruit new members to chapters and to engage a large number of foster youth in the county in developing local policy recommendations. Much like the CYC Summer Policy and Leadership Conference, this one day event has workshops where participants learn about CYC, discuss their experiences within a specific topic, and create solutions to either fix the negative experiences they have had or replicate the positive experiences. Often, chapters ask youth speakers, supportive community members, or local organizations working with foster youth to speak at either the opening or closing session of the Speak-Out. At the end of the event the chapter will have several different ideas and solutions from a large number of foster youth to develop into local policy recommendations. CYC Statewide staff has created a Speak-Out Planning Guide to help in planning a Speak Out.
3. Youth and Community Forums: Forums are a tool for chapters to inform a large number of people about a specific topic. Youth forums generally target current and former foster youth, while community forums target both current and former foster youth, as well as adults who work with foster youth and general community members. Forums are typically one day and members from the chapter present information on a specific topic. Some forums will have time for the participants to engage in conversations about the topic.
4. Youth Councils: Youth Councils are a great way for members to engage with the decision makers in their county about issues that are important to them. Youth Councils are meetings are usually held every quarter (although some are held more frequently), and provide the opportunity for CYC chapters and other youth to address specific issues or topics with the decision makers, such as the Director of Children Services, the Presiding Judge of Children’s Court, or the County Board of Supervisors. This is a great way for CYC members and other youth to get their voices heard in the county.
5. Trainings: Many chapters develop training curriculum and present it to different groups of people in their county. Trainings are a great way to change social work practice by educating practitioners on what it is like being a foster youth and how foster youth would like to be treated and interacted with, as well as informing practitioners and youth about current laws or policies. Audiences for trainings can include social workers, group home staff, foster parents, county administrators, educators or even other foster youth.
6. Brown Bag: Brown bag discussions are hosted by a chapter and are usually informal conversations in which people bring their lunch and talk about one central topic. Everyone has the opportunity to share challenges, experiences and best practices.
7. Community Awareness Activities: Chapters utilize community awareness events to raise awareness about a specific issue, cause or topic in the community. Examples include; distributing resource bags to homeless youth during National Run Away Youth Month, hosting a Zombie Car Wash, where members wash cars while dressed like zombies to raise awareness about youth being over medicated, and hosting a concert to raise awareness about foster care.
8. County Collaboration Activities: Many chapters collaborate with community organizations, or their county to host different activities. Some examples of collaboration activities include: CYC members leading the ILP Independent City icebreakers, working with other youth organizations to host conferences or facilitate social worker trainings. Collaborating with different community partners is important in building strong partnerships where foster youth are involved in decision making. Collaborating also helps to pull resources together to host an event or activity.
9. Volunteer Activities: Many members join CYC to give back to their communities. Sometimes chapters volunteer with organizations outside CYC. Some of these activities include: creating Valentine’s Day cards with children in the Children’s Hospital, replanting trees in fire destroyed areas on Earth Day, or hosting various events during Foster Care Awareness Month.