Youth Fostering Change (YFC), one of Juvenile Law Center's youth engagement programs, offers youth who are currently or formerly involved in the child welfare system the opportunity to evaluate the system and develop and implement a campaign that works toward reform. Each year, YFC Youth Advocates select an area of focus, determine a strategy to address it, and implement their project. Along the way, Juvenile Law Center provides essential support, ensuring that the participants develop the skills they need to succeed.
This year's theme was empowering youth in dependency court, specifically by removing barriers attendance and active participation. Pennsylvania law requires all youth in foster care to attend regular court hearings, but youth advocates had very different experiences in court. They were not encouraged to attend their hearings, and when they did attend, the process was very confusing and intimidating. As a result, major decisions were made about young people’s lives without either their presence or input.
At the start of their project, YFC Youth Advocates discussed how not attending or participating in their own hearings caused major disruptions in their housing and education. In fact, youth were shocked to learn that Pennsylvania State Law requires court attendance for all youth in foster care. Youth Advocates agreed that there were too many things keeping young people from attending and fully participating in court. So, Youth Advocates decided to do something about it. Watch the video to see how Juvenile Law Center's YFC tackles obstacles in their community.
Their work isn’t over yet. YFC will continue to shine a spotlight on the importance of youth participating in court. The youth advocates are exploring ways to implement their recommendations in Philadelphia and across the state. As lawyers dedicated to protecting children’s rights, Juvenile Law Center can’t stress the importance of YFC’s advocacy and reform work this year. Implementing their recommendations means that more youth in foster care will be able to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives and futures. Follow the Youth Fostering Change Youth Advocates and more of the Juvenile Law Center's projects on their website.