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It’s a little-known fact that youth who have spent time in the foster care system refer to other foster youth across the country as their “brothers and sisters in care.” This should not be surprising because when children are taken into government custody, technically they share the same parents – the state; and, of course, they share the common bond of trauma, family separation, and all too often, homelessness upon emancipation. Because of this special sibling connection, many alumni feel a special obligation to change and improve the system so that their younger brothers and sisters can avoid the suffering they endured.
In March 2019, with generous funding from the Psychic Source Kindness Initiative, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW) arranged for 12 youth leaders from Ohio, California, Kentucky, New York, and Connecticut to meet directly with officials at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). They briefed HUD on how to implement a policy that will end homelessness for youth leaving foster care. Remarkably, this policy, the Fostering Stable Housing Opportunities Program (FSHO), which was written by the young people themselves will be implemented by HUD in August 2019. FSHO will assure that every young person leaving foster care can have affordable housing and independent living services through the age 26.
Many of the youth leaders were surprised with the warm reception they received and the speed with which HUD approved their proposal. Even the young people who led the meeting with HUD, Roman, age 18 who is still in the custody of the state of Ohio and Kimberly, a 20-year-old foster youth and member of the California Youth Connection, were astonished by the response they received. According to Kimberly, “It was a surreal moment to be engaging in federal policy work with the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington D.C. The skills that I gained within the California Youth Connection (CYC) doing state-wide policy work prepared me and allowed me to use my speaking skills and knowledge on policies that affect my brothers and sisters in care within both California and throughout the United States. It was such an amazing experience and I am super thankful for this opportunity.”
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