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April 23, 2010

Blueprint for Aiding Transitioning Foster Youth Begun at New York Conference

With the enactment of the federal Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, those youth who face the difficulties of transitioning out of foster care when they reach age 18 may have a chance at a brighter future. On April 15 -16, more than 100 leaders and youth-at-risk experts met at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College in New York City to discuss how to effectively execute the law and ways to further assist these vulnerable youth. The ABA Commission on Youth at Risk, along with Hofstra University School of Law and the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, sponsored the program, “Fostering Connections National Summit: Charting a Better Future for Youth.”

The fostering connections bill was passed in 2008. The act not only provides federal resources to help states support foster youth after age 18, but also contains improvements to kinship care, workforce development, health care, adoption and more. Another vital provision calls for a personalized transition plan to be developed 90 days before a youth ages out of foster care.  In September 2009, the ABA testified before Congress about the educational access provisions of the bill.

Among the keynote speakers at the summit was Rep. Jim McDermott, one of the original sponsors of the legislation. Other speakers included Carmen R. Nazario, assistant secretary of children and families in the Department of Health and Human Services, and Judith Kaye, chief judge (ret.) of the state of New York.

During a plenary panel on April 15, panelists discussed the fostering connections act and the successes and difficulties of applying the act, as well as strategies for addressing fiscal challenges in implementing the law.

On April 16, attendees — including youth and alumni from the foster care system who shared their personal experiences — participated in breakout sessions during which they were divided into groups and assigned issues of import in the lives of transitioning foster youth.  Among the topics of discussion were placement and housing, health and mental health issues, court and legal processes, and state implementation and funding of the law. Participants reported back to the entire group, offering ideas on how to move forward in carrying out those areas of the law.

ABA President Carolyn Lamm delivered an opening speech commending the efforts of those involved in the summit.  “Lawyers are uniquely positioned to bring their skills, advocacy, education and dedication to youth and yet, we cannot do it alone,” Lamm said, “I applaud all of you for your dedication and commitment to the success of our nation’s youth.”