Foster youth suggest policy changes to elected officials

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Karen Bass celebrated the first Foster Youth Shadow Day in Los Angeles May 7, where former and current foster youth delegates worked with local leaders to present policy changes intended to improve the child welfare system.

Bass previously led the annual Foster Youth Shadow Day program as a member of Congress in Washington, D.C., which her office says led to landmark legislative change.

During a presentation in the City Council Chambers, Bass highlighted the work by a youth group from the National Foster Youth Institute, along with Wendy Smith Meyer and Conway Collis from the institute’s board leadership.

“We started the institute about 12 years ago,” Bass said. “When I was a member of Congress we also started a Congressional Caucus on foster youth, and once a year in May for National Foster Youth Month we would bring over 100 former foster youth to Congress for them to shadow their member of Congress … helping them to take their personal story and learn how to strategically impact public policy.”

The group of foster youth also had breakfast with all five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and according to Bass, group members pointed out a problem in vouchers for foster youth housing.

“When a young person ages out of foster care at either 18 or 21, our policies essentially put them on the street,” Bass said. “These [youth] pointed out one of the problems, which says that you either have to be a full-time student or a full-time employee or you can’t get your housing voucher. Well that’s a chicken and egg [scenario] because if you don’t give [them] a place to live, how do you expect for (them) to have a full-time job or be a full-time student?

“I have no doubt that they’re going to change that policy,” she added.

City Councilwoman Eunisses Hernandez thanked the mayor for being a long-time champion for youth impacted by the foster care system.

“I’m so excited to welcome delegates from the National Foster Youth Initiative,” Hernandez said. “There are over 400,000 young people in the foster care system across the U.S. With us here, today, are 15 young adults who are going to teach us all their role in government systems and changing them for the better.”

The youth delegates shadowed members of the City Council May 7 and 8.