Youth and Community Engagement
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>
Maine Youth Development Initiative(MYDI) has promoted a Youth Development approach to engage the community and youth to strengthen Maine's child welfare system. This ongoing initiative between the Department of Health & Human Services - Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) Independent Living Life Skills Program and the Institute for Public Sector Innovation (IPSI)at the Edmund S. Muskie School of Public Service has set a standard for the integration of Youth Development values and practices in Child Welfare practice. This project supports the work of the nationally acclaimed Maine Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT), a group of young people who are or have been in the child welfare system in Maine. YLAT has been recognized as an innovative model and has been involved in systems reform and public education on issues related to foster care and the impact on children, informing public policy and the development of legislation. This agreement also includes enhancing sibling connections and achieving permanency for children through the hosting of Camp To Belong Maine. A second year of public funding in this year's agreement are activities related to transition and sustainability efforts to ensure that a privately funded initiative will be maintained by the State of Maine in years to come. This project is known as the Maine Youth Transitions and is in collaboration with Jobs for Maine's Graduates and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.
This planning grant will allow us to conduct exploratory activities to engage Maine Tribal communities (Mic Mac, Maliseet, Penobscot, and Passamaquoddy)in planning a truth and reconciliation project focused on the trauma, losses and resulting needs of Tribal members who were taken from their family, culture and community when they were placed in state foster care and the trauma and injustice still experienced by Maine tribal people as they work to protect their children in State and Tribal care. The generational impact of these events is still impacting Tribal communities, families and individuals, as well as Tribal - State relationships. The planning grant will enable us to conduct background research, identifying participating Tribal communities, develop the reconciliation convening group, and prepare the implementation grant that will follow this planning grant. The overall goals of the reconciliation project ar to create a common understanding of the truth of Maine's Tribal child welfare experience and to present recommendations for achieving justice for historical wrongs experienced by Maine Tribes. The lessons learned from the reconciliation process and resulting products will instruct current child welfare practice in Maine, as well as provide a model for other states to improve Tribal - State relationships as they pertain to child welfare and other vital intergovernmental issues.