The goal of this project is to engage the Maine child welfare system, youth in foster care and community members in training, leadership development and leadership opportunities to improve case management, services, programs and safety / permanency / well being outcomes.
<p>The Maine Youth Development Initiative (MYDI) is in its 14th year. MYDI established and coordinates Maine's Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT) which engages youth in foster care in leadership development and leadership opportunities to improve practice, services, training, and programs, providing feedback to improve child welfare services for all youth.</p>
<p>YLAT teams are engaging youth in care from all eight Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) Districts as leaders in monthly meetings and quarterly leadership events. For more than a decade youth leaders in foster care have been included in training for child welfare staff and care providers.</p>
<p>Youth in care as a trainer for child welfare professionals and care providers has been an effective innovation of the training system. Youth are best able to provide important insights into how practice impacts their lives, sometimes with unanticipated consequences. It has humanized training and provided a vehicle for youth to have a voice on their behalf and on behalf of other youth.</p>
<p>Requests continue for youth to provide perspective and testimony to legislative hearings and initiatives, to work with OCFS staff on policy initiatives, and to meet with or serve on advisory committees and workgroups.</p>
<p>For 21 years, Maine has provided an annual conference for teens in foster care and their key support people (caseworkers, agency staff, and care providers). This annual teen conference focuses on leadership development, transitional planning for youth in care, education goals and resources, work readiness, and building family and community connections. Connections with peers in foster care have been appealing, affirming and empowering for the youth who have participated.</p>
<p>Muskie staff also support a variety of other youth and adult partnerships (the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative Advisory Committee, Maine Youth Transition Collaborative Executive Board, York County Community Collaborative, and the New England Youth Collaborative) with the goal of creating more resources for older youth in care. Through community engagement and youth development activities, this University-State partnership works to implement key elements of two pieces of Federal Legislation (the John Chafee Foster Care Independence Program and Fostering Connections) ensuring that youth leaving foster care are becoming self-sufficient through high school graduation, post-secondary educational attainment and work experience.</p>