2022 Grants Challenge

Empowering Youth to Use Their Voices

Since 2016, Fostering Media Connections’ Youth Voice program has been working with foster, justice-involved and homeless youth and young adults to share their perspectives on the systems that impacted their lives. This project will be focused on elevating youth voices in media, while working with local partners to develop youth skills in journalism. We plan to publish at least 20 stories from youth with lived experience in LA County over the next year.


What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

County of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Research points to negative outcomes for youth with lived experience in foster care, juvenile justice and/or homelessness – statistics which most people are all too aware of. Frequently, youth interact with multiple systems and are less likely to have success in college or career attainment. These negative outcomes also disproportionately impact youth of color, who are overrepresented in these systems. In late 2021, LA County brought together its Youth Commission. Its stated vision is “All youth-serving systems in Los Angeles County will be informed by, and co-designed with the voices of youth with lived experience.” Unlike many other commissions, this Youth Commission has real power – they can audit county budgets, directly communicate with supervisors, and meet in front of a group of decision makers monthly. This grant would come at a critical moment for how LA County is listening to youth voices. We want to use our program to elevate youth voices that will improve the system.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

For the past 13 years that FMC has been covering child welfare and youth justice, we have ensured that the perspectives of youth are included in the conversation, which for many years was not true elsewhere. Youth Voice started in 2016 in LA County. We host training workshops, do one-on-one editing, provide opportunities for internships and fellowships in journalism and connect youth with writing opportunities. In February 2022, FMC Youth Voice did a training with the LA County Youth Commission on how to write an op-ed. We know this is a critical time to empower youth with lived experience to share their perspectives, because more people are listening than ever before. At least 7 youth are going to publish stories in The Imprint on policy issues from that workshop. FMC provides youth with the tools they need to discuss what policies and changes they would like to see. We provide them the skills and resources to train other youth in using their voice as advocates, to produce events where youth or experts share their opinions, and to use their interviewing or writing skills to ensure leaders are on-the-record. This project will continue that work while securing proposals for a website that will host all creative writing, photography, essays and journalism produced by youth writers. We hope to pilot this site with LA County partners and use this grant to build out a site development plan – as well as what other resources will be available on the site.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

LA County has faced challenges in improving child welfare and juvenile justice. These systems are often a pipeline to homelessness and do not provide stable footing for youth to step out on their own. Through this project, we can ensure that LA County will be informed one what changes might make the biggest difference in the lives of young people who are systems involved – from the experts who should be leading systems change. In the short term, our work will ensure there are a number of advocates with the tools and expertise to share their perspectives effectively. The website will also present a place where youth can go to be heard as well as connect with one another to feel less alone in their experiences of these systems. In the long term, this work will lead to better operating systems that previously have led to a lot of negative outcomes.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

Beyond training youth to lead the conversation, we plan to provide career enrichment opportunities for youth. We will host at least one contributor in LA County in our 2023 cohort (which is a 3-4 month curriculum) and one intern who will assist with administration and outreach. We plan to work with at least 40 youth and publish at least 20 stories from young people on key child welfare issues. We have measured how many youth we work with as well as how often youth reengage with the program more than once. Lastly, we will partner with local nonprofits to make a plan for a website that will host Youth Voice creative writing, journalism and opportunities. This will require putting out an RFP for a site and building out a plan for securing funding and MOUs that will be piloted with LA County partners. Progress in this will be measured by having a final document that outlines the partnership, site development contract, and how we can move forward with partners.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 40

Indirect Impact: 22,750