By Amy Peters, Statewide Training Advisor for Project Everlast
At Project Everlast, we place great value on the perspectives of people who have experienced the foster care system first hand, and we work diligently to make sure that their voices are heard in policies and programs that will affect them and those that come after. As an alumna of the Nebraska foster care system, I relish every opportunity to share my story when I know that it will lead to positive change for youth in care today.
So, you can imagine my excitement when I was asked to be a part of the National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council. My excitement grew even more when I learned that I would have the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. (one of my favorite cities) and take part in a meeting that would conclude with the group providing recommendations to the Administration on Children, Youth, and Families.
Making national connections
One of my favorite things about these sorts of groups is the opportunity to meet some pretty amazing people. There’s something unique about advisory groups made up of foster care alumni; our experiences and our desire to make change help us relate to one another and fuel us to get the job done. I would soon learn that this group in particular consisted of some outstanding individuals who were already doing amazing things in their own communities. (See President Obama recognize one of the members here).
Influencing national leaders
We arrived in Washington D.C. on April 13th and got right to work creating recommendations around higher education, youth engagement and access to mental health services, and improving well-being by addressing normalcy for foster youth. In addition, the Council had the opportunity to attend a conference being held by the Child Welfare League of America where we met with William Bell, CEO of Casey Family Programs. His keynote speech at the conference was incredibly inspirational and motivating.
Tuesday, April 16th was the big day when we delivered our recommendations to Assistant Secretary George Sheldon and Commissioner Bryan Samuels. I was so thrilled with how they received our recommendations while providing constructive feedback. Additionally, we were very pleased to learn that many of the Council’s previous recommendations around vulnerability and sex-trafficking of foster youth as well as aging out are already being implemented by the ACF.
Bringing it all home
When I boarded the plane in Washington, D.C. to head back home, I felt extremely honored to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people and have my voice heard on the national level. But I knew that there was more work to be done, and I returned to Nebraska eager to share our recommendations.
When I got back to Nebraska, I realized that this is exactly what we hope to do with our Project Everlast youth.
The whole reason we started Project Everlast is so youth in the system could lead the way – helping us set the agenda for a statewide conversation about foster care. I can only hope that our youth are walking away from their Project Everlast experiences feeling as empowered, inspired and motivated as I have been sharing Nebraska’s perspective on a national level. If we can accomplish that here at home, we’re in for some remarkable, positive changes for the foster care experience.
Amy Peters is the Statewide Training Advisor for Project Everlast. She has served as an advocate for system involved youth on both the state and national level and has provided recommendations to all three branches of government. She holds an undergraduate degree in Criminology with a minor in Psychology from the University of Nebraska and she will be attending law school at the University of Nebraska in the fall of 2013.
The National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council is a project in partnership between Foster Care Alumni of America and FosterClub, with generous support from Casey Family Programs. Advisory organizations include the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, Foster Care to Success, Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, National Foster Youth Action Network, Young Adult Training and T/A Network (a project of the National Resource Center for Youth Development), and Youth Communications.