California Youth Connection - Our Voices, Our Future


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  • Foster youth in California decide to create California Youth Connection (CYC), a new foster youth-led organization modeled after the successful Canadian Youth in Care Network and dedicated to youth empowerment, youth development, and policy advocacy.
  • CYC grows from five to nine chapters, each with volunteer adult supporters, and all of which are closely affiliated with Independent Living Programs (ILPs) at the county level.
  • Members network with foster youth throughout the state and with policymakers as visibility of the organization increases.
  • CYC begins holding annual statewide leadership and policy conferences for members to discuss issues they would like to change in the foster care system and attend workshops on issues related to advocacy and self-help.  CYC youth trainers develop curriculum and deliver training on leadership, advocacy, and the legislative process.
  • Youth meet with two top representatives from the California Department of Social Services regarding issues related to their care.  Some chapter members also begin to present at professional conferences and trainings.
  • CYC youth propose their first piece of legislation, the driver’s license bill, which is passed and signed by Governor Deukmajian.  This bill makes it easier for foster youth to obtain driver’s licenses.
  • Youth hold their first Day at the Capitol Conference.  This two-day event features a tour of the capitol, presentations by the Director of the California Department of Social Services, the Youth Law Center, and advocates.  Youth have meetings with legislators and their staff, and hold a public press conference.  The issues presented by the youth are exit grants and free college tuition.  Assemblyman Bates sponsors the transitional housing bill, which creates transitional housing as a placement category.  The bill passes and is signed by the Governor.


  • CYC members vote to become a non-profit statewide organization with a central office.  The CYC statewide office opens in San Francisco and four staff are hired, including two former foster youth.  CYC begins defining itself as an advocacy organization that is separate from ILP.  The Community College Foundation becomes CYC’s fiscal sponsor.
  • CYC members take their first trip to Washington, D.C. to attend a national youth leadership conference and meet with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and members of Congress.  They educate members about the importance of ILP funding and programming.
  • CYC conducts its first set of focus groups and publishes the results as another way to educate the public and policymakers about the views of youth in care.
  • The all youth CYC Advisory Board begins meeting regularly to chart the course of the organization.  Through a planning process, they redefine the mission of CYC to one of strong advocacy both locally and statewide.
  • The number of chapters increases from 9 to 15.  Four new youth staff are hired in Los Angeles County.  Training is developed for youth and volunteer adult supporters on how to address local issues.  Statewide conferences are reorganized to a format of studying issues and presenting recommendations for policy change to a panel of distinguished leaders.
  • CYC conducts its first hearing with the Assembly Human Services Committee addressing the needs of youth as they exit care.  The hearing is a huge success and brings CYC members to the forefront as very professional, prepared and poised experts in the field of child welfare.
  • CYC introduces legislation on the importance of post adoption contact between siblings, which is passed and signed by Governor Wilson.  California has its first foster care ombudsman because of the efforts of many advocates, including CYC youth.


  • Budget language is adopted that California promotes the participation of foster youth in the development of child welfare policy and that CYC is the vehicle for that input, which is a major philosophical victory for foster youth.
  • CYC incorporates as an independent non-profit organization.  With funding from government contracts, foundation grants, and individual donors, CYC’s budget grows from $200,000 to $1.48-million.  The staff grows to 13; the majority of program staff are former CYC members; outreach, policy and communications departments are established; two regional offices open; and the number of chapters reaches 28.
  • After several attempts to put the rights of foster youth into California law, CYC realizes success in 2001 as the Foster Youth Bill of Rights became law.  Additional CYC legislative proposals are passed and signed by the Governor including:  securing Medi-Cal coverage for youth up to age 21; improving the independent living program; establishing a stronger policy regarding sibling contact; improving foster youth education; and improving support for emancipated youth.
  • CYC members partner with Majority Leader Karen Bass, Chair of the Select Committee on Foster Care, to inform the Committee’s agenda and shape the state’s approach to foster care reform for the next decade.  CYC sits on many major county and statewide policy committees including the Co-Investment Partnership, Child Welfare Council, Blue Ribbon Commission and Breakthrough Series Collaborative.
  • CYC National Training Team trains advocates in 7 states on how to start their own statewide advocacy organizations.  The Board completes work on national feasibility project and decides to spin off a new national organization, the National Foster Youth Action Network, which will provide training and technical assistance to a selected number of affiliates.
  • Board President Tonya Hightower, Executive Director Janet Knipe and Associate Director Tiffany Johnson are selected to receive the prestigious James Irvine Foundation 2008 Leadership Award.


  • After a year of strategic planning, CYC decides to launch a national organization geared towards training other states.
  • Janet Knipe, CYC's founding Executive Director, leaves CYC to start the National Foster Youth Action Network (NFYAN), a national organization geared towards training and providing technical support for other states wanting to start their own statewide advocacy organization.
  • CYC hires Dr. Joseph Tietz as our new Executive Director.
  • After several years of educating legislators and advocating for the extension of services to transition age youth, CYC's co-sponsored bill, the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, AB 12 passes into law! AB12 provides the option to youth to stay in care up to their 20th birthday and made significant changes to California's Kin-Gap program.
  • CYC rebrands and gets a new logo after 20 years.
  • Culinary Inspirations, CYC's first statewide fundraising event, takes place in Culver City in the fall of 2010.
  • CYC celebrates its 25th anniversary and hosts over 30 celebrations in California.


* CYC is a registered 501c3. All donations made to CYC are tax deductible.
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