True Up and Kentucky Youth Advocates like to find new ways to advocate. So, we often find ourselves in new projects that all have an end goal of improving the child welfare system. We are currently working on a grant, known as the Journey to Success campaign, that seeks to improve outcomes for young adults with foster care experience. This is achieved by prioritizing health and wellbeing, family preservation, economic security, and more. The Journey to Success policy campaign is a national grant.
In May, during National Foster Care month, True Up was invited to send one young adult representative with their support staff to fly to Washington, D.C. to meet with the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, for the purpose of speaking about the policy priorities most important to them. We sent our Peer Coach Coordinator Cynthia Schepers, and our Executive Director Nikki Thornton. Cynthia also brought her service dog Pepper, who was a hit at the White House. There were five other young adults present as well.
Within the diplomatic reception room, the young adult leaders and White House staff sat at a large table together for discussion. We were asked to bring two of the five policy priorities forward for discussion and answer one question they had prepared for us. Our young adult representative Cynthia selected the priorities around health and wellness, and ensuring youth are plugged into supportive services. Read more about them here: JTS Policy Priorities.
The question they asked was about Cynthia’s new role as a Peer Coach Coordinator. Cynthia explained that youth are often lacking intangible supports, such as a support person they can trust, “this is the importance of the Peer Coach position we will soon be hiring for.” Once hired, Peer Coaches will be responsible for outreach to the community to connect with youth, ensuring they are set up in every program they both qualify for, and are interested in. Other discussion topics included the need for more kinship placements, fostering sibling connections, disproportionality with youth of color and other marginalized groups in the foster care system, and increasing LGBTQ+ supports. After our formal gathering, True Up was able to spend time networking with national and state level policy leaders and was also able to pass around some fliers and post cards to teach people about what True Up is, and our mission.
It was wonderful to go to DC to advocate and meet other young adults and supporters. We especially want to thank the Think of Us organization for coordinating the round table discussion. We also enjoyed the post-meeting conversation with Hannah Bristol, who represented the Office of Public Engagement. One of the best parts of the meeting was when we were told President Biden has proposed a $10 billion increase for child welfare in the 2023 budget. As we departed, we were told this meeting was only the beginning of collaborative efforts and opportunities. We’re very thankful that we were chosen to be part of this experience.