“The Fosters” – Giving Youth a Voice

The Fosters_ABC FamilyOver the last couple weeks on ABC Family’s “The Fosters,” Callie has been designing an app to help foster youth for her independent study class in school. Last week Callie finally pitched her new app, “Fost & Found” to her friends at Girls United (GU), a group home for youth in foster care.

The app is designed to connect young adults in foster care to their peers, to services in the community, and to give youth a voice to “call out” case workers and judges that could do a better job. Although the app is well intentioned, the girls immediately point out several unfortunate flaws in the app’s premise.

First, the girls at GU are not allowed to bring in phones and are not allowed to access the Internet, so they would not even be able to use the app. This is an example of how young adults in foster care often times do not get to share the same experiences as their non-foster care peers. Last week we blogged about new federal legislation that seeks to address this issue and ensure that young adults have access to developmentally appropriate activities and other “normal” teenage experiences, like being able to use the Internet. Perhaps after the implementation of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, more young adults would be able download Callie’s app to share their foster care experiences with each other.

The second flaw that the girls pointed out was that they all feared retribution for posting negative comments about their caseworker, attorney, or judge. The girls have a good point here in that speaking negatively about the professionals working on your foster care case may not be the most effective way to advocate for positive change to the foster care system. Fortunately in Nebraska there is already an established organization that helps connect young adults and also provide them with an opportunity to make positive changes to the foster care system.

Project Everlast is a statewide, youth-led initiative committed to providing resources, connections and support to young adults as they age out of foster care. Project Everlast has allowed many young adults to share their experiences in the foster care system with important policymakers at the state and national level.

The young adults at Project Everlast have successfully advocated for major legislative improvements in Nebraska including the creation of the Bridge to Independence Program (B2I). Furthermore, many young adults sit on the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council to weigh in on important issues like education, finance, employment, health, foster care, and more.

We definitely have to give props to Callie for trying to give her peers and herself a voice, but if she is going to redesign her app, she may want to give our friends at Project Everlast a call. I am sure they would be more than happy to give her some advice about helping young adults in foster care connect with services, each other, and about how to positively advocate for needed change to the system.

Be sure to keep checking our blog regularly for more reviews of The Fosters and discussion of the issues the show raises.

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