Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy

Youth in Foster Care and State Legislators Come Together

On April 19th, 2018 the Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT) and the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC) held their second annual Policy Summit at the Maine State Capitol. This event was attended by 10 young people, four mentors (alumni of foster care), and four partners from Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS). At the Summit, youth from across Maine come together annually to learn about the legislative process, develop skills in advocating for themselves, and consider how best to tap their experience in foster care to create systems change for all young people in foster care. This year’s Summit focused on normalcy and the importance of young people in foster care participating in the activities and experiences that are central to healthy development and well-being. Young people worked together to prepare messages for a Listening Panel that took place in the State House. The Listening Panel was comprised of three current Legislators – Rep. Seth Berry, Rep. Colleen Madigan, and Sen. Geoff Gratwick – and the Acting Director of the Office of Child and Family Services, Kirsten Capeless. The subsequent dialogue between youth and adults centered on the importance of maintaining sibling connections, obtaining a driver’s license, and preparing young people to actively participate in meetings and decisions about themselves. The panel helped key state leaders understand the issues from the youths’ perspective; they promised to find ways to continue the conversation, especially about helping young people enroll in driver’s education and get their licenses.