NYJL Jumps In as Foster Children Age Out
The New York Junior League’s (NYJL) Advocates for Public Policy (APP) committee is responding to the NYJL’s call to action to determine how best to advocate for policies to support youth who are “aging-out” of the New York City foster care system. Currently, APP is reaching out to non-profit organizations that have a long-standing history of shepherding youth as they experience this transition from foster care to independence in New York, as well as neighboring states like New Jersey. “The more we learn,” said APP City Advocacy subcommittee vice-chair Erika Milczek, “the more we realize this population needs our attention. APP hopes to gain in-depth knowledge of this topic so that it can reach out to elected officials and effectively advocate for policy solutions.”
APP’s City Advocacy subcommittee is leading research efforts to gain a deeper understanding about the gaps in services for the approximately 1,000 youth who age out of the City’s foster care system yearly. According to a report published by Public Advocate Letitia James, an estimated 18-26% of young adults who age out of foster care end up becoming homeless. Since approximately 50% of foster youth are unemployed upon aging out of the system, it is no surprise that 1 in 5 youth enter a homeless shelter within 3 years of leaving care.
On November 20, 2015, APP heard from guest speakers Annie Minguez, Director of Community Relations at Good Shepherd Services, and Leigh Held, co-chair of NYJL’s New View committee about their experience serving foster care youth and areas in need of advocacy to help this at risk community. Ms. Minguez explained that while there are some opportunities for aging out youth to access transitional housing, these programs are sponsored by organizations, such as Good Shepherd Services, who are unable to serve the overwhelming number of youth in need.
Turning the focus of the conversation internally, Leigh Held detailed the NYJL’s long-standing efforts to support this vulnerable community. Ms. Held conveyed that based on her time volunteering with the New View Committee, expansion of literacy, apprenticeship, and workforce development programs for youth aging out of foster care is in dire need of attention and advocacy.
APP looks forward to finding ways to support this underserved population. As APP gains a better sense of where our advocacy would be most valuable, please be on the look out for updates from the committee about this very concerning issue. Finally, please do not hesitate to reach out with suggestions for how APP can get further involved in this and other pressing policy issues by emailing APP.