Foster Youth in Action believes in the power of the foster youth voice. We organize a grassroots network of foster youth-led groups through training, leadership opportunities, shared learning and advocacy. With 16 foster youth-driven partners in 17 states, FYA is the only national organization raising up and connecting independent, grassroots groups fighting to secure rights and opportunities that current and former foster youth deserve.
FYA advances our mission to raise up youth voices through the following program areas:
- Our network’s Learning Hub, through which young leaders ages 14 to 24 and adult advisors
connect throughout the year, strengthening leadership and advocacy skills, educating eachother on key foster youth issues and improving program practices.
- Leaders United, our national youth organizing and leadership committee representing each of our FYA Network Partners.
- Leaders for Change is our annual national conference in Washington, D.C. that brings together our grassroots network to collaborate, to share their powerful voices with elected officials and other influencers, and to empower and prepare youth to bring the fight for systems change back to their communities.
- Our capacity-building services support emerging foster youth-led groups to get started, get organized and take action; and they help established groups to improve program practices and increase impact.
- We use research and communications to lift up the stories and learnings of foster youth-led action, demonstrating the value of the foster youth voice for systems AND personal transformation.
Too many foster youth across the country leave care without the skills, connections or support they need to thrive in adulthood. As a result, former foster youth suffer disproportionately from poverty, incarceration, homelessness, lower levels of education and unemployment compared to other young adults.
The undeniable conclusion: the foster care system is failing these young people. But when searching for solutions, the voices of most foster youth are not heard. At the same time, powerful adults who know little about what it is like in the foster care system are the ones making decisions. FYA flips this script.
- Thousands of powerful foster youth leaders building skills, knowledge, confidence and connections for healthy and productive adulthood;
- Effective, sustainable foster youth-led groups improving child welfare systems and policies at the local and state levels; and
- An organized foster youth-led movement shaping policy at the federal level.
FYA’s strategy for youth engagement is youth organizing. Youth organizing joins positive youth development principles, community organizing practices, and a commitment to systems change and challenging inequity. Youth organizing is effective in engaging youth who are disconnected from more traditional programs.
In this approach, foster youth get organized, build their groups, identify issues prioritized by their peers in care, and take action through campaigns. Along the way, youth build essential leadership skills, increase their self-esteem, and get a sense of their own power.
FYA was established in 2008 by foster youth organizers and advocates at California Youth Connection — one of the oldest independent foster youth-led organizations in the US — who saw the promise and possibility of a national network of groups of current and former foster youth working together across the country. Starting with California Youth Connection and Oregon Foster Youth Connection, and building capacity of those and other organizations to support youth-led advocacy and organizing, FYA has grown deliberately and thoughtfully. We are growing rapidly now, attracting new groups to our network because of the tangible benefits we offer.
FYA is responding to the needs and interests of our youth leaders, partners, stakeholders, and supporters to
- Partner with foster youth advocates and supportive adults to establish new youth-led groups where interest and need exists.
- Bring additional state-based, youth-led organizations into our network.
- Expand services, tools and supports we offer to adult allies and youth leaders to help them be more effective in their advocacy campaigns and to increase their impact.
- Create the infrastructure to develop and advance a federal policy agenda that reflects the voices and priorities of our partners across the US.