Voices’ Blog

We Must End the Pipeline of Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

Posted:  -  By: Allison Gilbreath

Recently, I was given an incredible opportunity to present at the Jim Casey Youth Initiatives National Conference and gave remarks at the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth’s briefing.  The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative works to ensure that young people – ages 14 to 26 – in the United States who have spent at least one day in foster care on their 14th birthday have the resources, relationships, and opportunities to achieve well-being and success.

Jennifer Pokempner, Juvenile Law Center; Allison Gilbreath, Voices; Ashley Pacheco, Jim Casey Young Fellow; Patricia Duh; Jim Casey Young Fellows; Catherine Lestor, Jim Casey Initiative

The focus of the convening was on prioritizing permanency for youth in foster care — in other words, ensuring that each young person has a caring adult who will support him or her for a lifetime. The conference had a cohort of young fellows who had lived experience in the foster care system. They want all caseworkers to ask:

 “Who will be there for this young person when they are 25, 40, 50? Everyone needs a family, everyone needs someone.”

When I returned to Virginia I spent sometime digging into the data – I wanted to know where we stood when it came to our permanency numbers. I found that Virginia has remained relatively stagnant when it comes to children exiting the foster care system. Virginia continues to rank 49th in the country for youth who age out of foster care without a permanent connection—on average about 500 youth each year. The key issue is that for children who enter foster care, it becomes extremely difficult for them to exit.

There are many ways we can bring the focus back to permanency.

I highlighted these issues at the Senate Hearing. You can watch the video below to listen to my full comments.

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