Foster Youth in Action was founded in 2008 by young organizers and supportive adults with California Youth Connection (CYC). This grassroots, statewide, foster youth led organization had a powerful vision of a national community of organized groups and young leaders working locally, regionally, and nationally to ensure that the diverse voices of foster youth were truly represented. Starting California Youth Connection and then Oregon Foster Youth Connection, our family of youth-led groups has grown to 23 partners in twenty states.
Foster Youth in Action is guided by the following set of principles in our work with young people and communities.
- Youth Are the experts. Those who are directly impacted by the system must be part of changing it.
- We need all young people’s voices. Changing the system can’t rest on a few, hand-picked leaders. All young people with experience in the system should be included.
- Organizing is transformational. Youth organizing as a youth engagement strategy is a profoundly transformational experience that builds hope, confidence, connection, and community. Read more about this unique foster youth engagement approach here [link to our paper].
The Challenge our communities face
Like their peers outside the system, foster youth have hope, want a good education, and dream of a fulfilling and meaningful life. For most, however, these simple hopes are out of reach. Instead, the foster care system pushes young people towards homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration. Foster youth, disproportionately black and brown, are aging out of care unprepared, unsupported, and disconnected.
Our approach is youth organizing
Young people with experience in care can and should be a part of the solution, and child welfare systems say they are listening to what youth want and need to thrive. However, most existing approaches to “youth engagement” fail to do just that. Selecting a handful of hand-picked young people to share their stories and offer “advice” tokenizes the few and distorts the priorities of the many.
As a national organization working with local organizing groups led by young people, Foster Youth in Action, believes that change is critical, and that in order to create this change, we need different tools to get there. Youth Organizing is one of those tools. With youth organizing as the strategy for foster youth engagement, we can greatly expand opportunities that make space for all youth to participate; ensure that issues and priorities are truly raised up from the grassroots; and help young people build lasting power to achieve transformational changes that go beyond the limited reforms that systems would prefer. If young people continue to be unorganized, systems will have little pressure to make the kinds of changes that move the needle on outcomes for youth leaving care.
OUR FYA FAMILY
“Now more than ever I am convinced I have brothers and sisters all over the United States standing up to improve a broken child welfare system. I am honored to have so many of you a part of my world.” - One foster youth leader’s reflection in 2017
Families are who you love. FYA challenges traditional definitions and boundaries to help unite and connect a growing family of young leaders and youth-led organizations who share a common commitment to making the world better for those who come behind them.
Go here to learn more about our family members and how we nurture, sustain, and connect our growing family.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Our work is made possible by the generous support of the following contributors:
Andrus Family Fund
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Bozzone Family Foundation
Champions for Children, Inc.
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
craigslist Charitable Fund
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
Leo and Yuki Graham Foundation
May and Stanley Smith Charitable Trust
Music is Unity Foundation
The Lyndon and Helen M. Schmid Foundation
W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation
Walter S. Johnson Foundation
Zellerbach Family Foundation
Corporations, firms, and nonprofit organizations
Bayer Health Care
Just in Time for Foster Youth
Kaiser Permanente Northern California
Law Office of Jonah Chew
Opportunity Youth United
The Pratt Company
Anita and Mark Silverman
Cuz of Jesse
Eileen Byrnes Perry
Gail Johnson Vaughan
Jamie & Joseph Wang
Katharine and Alan Cahn
Laura and Adam Magnus
Lee Horowitz and Dana Zell
Philip Menschell & Mindy Clendaniel
Sarah Bess Hudson
Thomas and Karla Mahoney