Local Issues in Action
DRIVING CHANGE: LOCAL ISSUES IN ACTION
CYC members advocate for change not only at the statewide level but they also advocate at the local level. There are many ways for chapters to engage decision makers and improve child welfare policy and practice on a local level.
The Driving Change: Local Issues in Action award is given at CYC’s annual Day at the Capitol Conference to the chapters who have made an impact on a local issue. These awards represent the hard work of chapters in their communities. These awards also highlight the positive partnership between young people and county child welfare agencies to change the lives of foster youth. Working together not only gives youth a voice in their own lives but helps to create a better foster care system for those youth entering the system.
San Mateo - Establishing Foster Youth Advisory Board
San Mateo chapter is working with their county social services to establish a Foster Youth Advisory Board to get feedback on county policies, services and priorities.
Santa Cruz- Improving Ombudsman Practices
After several complaints by different youth where made about a local group home to the California Ombudsman's Office, the Santa Cruz Chapter members discovered that most of the youth never heard back from the Ombudsman's Office about follow up on the investigation. What they learned was that only one youth had been contacted regarding the problem being resolved. This left the other youth feeling as if their concerns were ignored. The Santa Cruz Chapter contacted the Ombudsman's Office to discuss the unintended consequences of this practice and the Ombudsman's Office has since changed their practice to follow up with all related complaints to ensure youth know their feedback had been heard.
San Francisco- Internship at the Children's Protection Center (CPC)
When San Francisco youth are first removed from their families, they are taken to the CPC. The San Francisco Chapter recognized that despite the warmth of the staff, the atmosphere was unwelcoming. The members felt that having a foster youth who had been through the system working at the CPC would help new youth entering foster care for the first time to feel more comfortable. The Chapter worked with the Deputy Director of Children and Family Services, the Coordinator of the CPC, and the SF Independent Living Skills Program to create an internship opportunity to do just this.
Madera- Life books/ Permanency Practice
Madera Chapter members were concerned that youth in foster care move so regularly that they lose track of important people in their lives and forget significant experiences they have had. The members created “Life Books” for youth to be able to document their lives as they move through foster care. The books serve another purpose as well, as they are used by social workers to help find potential caregivers for the youth by helping the youth recall important relationships from earlier in their lives.
Los Angeles- Social Worker Education Training
The members of the Los Angeles Chapter surveyed the foster youth across Los Angeles County regarding the Independent Living Program (ILP). They found that many youth did not know anything about ILP services, and some of the youth who did know about the services were not receiving them. The Chapter developed a training for social workers to inform them of all of the available services. This training was adopted by the county and all incoming social workers will receive this training.
San Bernardino- Seat on Foster Youth Steering Committee
The San Bernardino chapter hosted a Foster Youth Summit where current and former foster youth developed local policy recommendations. The county committed to addressing each recommendation by inviting the chapter to have a permanent seat on the Foster Youth Steering Committee and placing the recommendations as permanent agenda items.
Ventura- Group Home Sensitivity Video
Ventura created a Group Home Sensitivity Video which addressed some of the experiences members faced while living in group homes. The county has adopted this video and all group home workers view it as a part of their training.
Orange County- Ensuring Naturalization Papers
Members of the Orange County Chapter were noticing that many youth were transitioning out of foster care without any of their naturalization paperwork. This made many youth unable to enroll in school or work. The chapter worked with the county to inform social workers in their yearly training about how to obtain this information for all youth. In addition, naturalization paperwork has been permanently added to the Emancipation Checklist, which helps remind social workers to address this issue and notify the courts if the youth is missing any essential documents.
Siskiyou County- Attorney Accountability
Siskiyou County CYC members had noticed that they were feeling disconnected and disempowered in their own court hearings. The common theme was that the attorneys representing them often spoke on their behalf without consulting with the youth prior to the hearings. In response, the members developed a form to document the communication between attorneys and their youth clients, that both the attorney and youth needed to sign. Siskiyou members met with the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court and discussed their experiences. He has implemented their document in his court room, mandating all attorneys increase communications with their youth clients prior to appearing in court.