Elevating the Voices of L.A County Child Welfare and Justice Impacted Youth
Youth Voices Rising is a media and journalism training program for those impacted by the child welfare system with juvenile justice and/or homelessness experience. YVR seeks to bridge the gap between impacted youth, providing young people safe spaces to amplify their voices and strengthen conversations for system change. FMC launched the program in 2016 to help youth gain the skills and confidence they need to articulate the policy and practice changes needed to improve the system, because they are the experts on what solutions might work.
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?
In L.A. County, there are 26,547 children supervised by the Department of Children and Family Services - almost 18,000 of them in foster care, as of March 2023. We envision the youth who experience these systems having the opportunity to share their experiences, thoughts and concerns in meaningful ways that reach decision makers. Fostering Media Connections' Youth Voices Rising program lifts up the stories from these young people to the very people who can make a difference in their lives and ultimately in these systems. One of our 2022 YVR trainings engaged all members of the L.A. County Youth Commission, which was formed to provide youth real oversight and influence in discussions around child welfare and youth justice in California's largest metropolis. These yielded powerful op-eds produced by commission members that appeared in both The Imprint and Knock LA, a prominent watchdog news outlet in the county. YVR has trained hundreds of youth and published their stories.
Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.
Youth Voices Rising is a media training program for youth with lived experience in foster care, juvenile justice systems and/or homelessness. Last year, YVR helped former foster youth produce and publish 140 op-eds and other written pieces, and worked with young people to host 10 different webinars, which drew more than 2,000 attendees. Our plan to accomplish these activities over the next year are: * Hire a full-time program assistant on the ground in Los Angeles County to reach out to potential partners and youth. * Host workshops with local partners to train youth on op-ed writing and communication skills, for which youth are paid for their participation and compensated when their work is published. * Hire Los Angeles-based Youth Voice Contributors to participate in a 6-month journalism training program. * Provide support for our annual backpack drive for college-bound youth in foster care. * Support our current LA County-based YVR team, including our program manager Raquel Wilson who is a former LA County-systems impacted youth herself (currently residing in Lancaster, one of LA County's communities with youth the least connected to services). * Edit and publish pieces about local policy challenges from current and former foster/justice-involved youth in Los Angeles County. Because LA County youth involved in these systems are almost 90% children and youth of color, we would expect our YVR participants to be representative of this population.
Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.
Fostering Media Connections' existence is pinned to the belief that a quality media environment is essential for all voices and ideas to be considered. Our ultimate goal is to develop a greater awareness and deeper understanding for youth justice and child welfare issues in Los Angeles and beyond. We do this through publishing daily news stories, resources for foster families and elevating youth voice throughout our publications. If we are successful in the plan we propose here, many more of the county's current and former foster youth will have developed the writing and communications skills essential to ensuring that their voice is heard by the public. The work of these young writers and thinkers will have been featured in The Imprint and Fostering Families Today, along with other partnering media outlets. We will have ensured that no policymaker in Los Angeles can credibly say that they are unaware of the views of those with lived experience in the county's foster care system.
What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?
YVR's impact is defined by: * The number of youth given skill-building opportunities through our workshops, internships, contributor-role participation, webinar speaking and more. (140 in 2022) * Re-engagement of youth through continued opportunities. (50%) * Commitment to being open to feedback from participants through surveys. * The number of articles published by systems-impacted youth (over 100 in 2022). What is not measurable are the connections and relationships built by our YVR team to the youth they work with: attending college graduations, celebrating job attainment, and providing parenting advice as well as sharing deeply heartbreaking moments of family separation, deaths and dealing with the residual emotional impacts of growing up in these systems.
Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?
Direct Impact: 100
Indirect Impact: 53,000