“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead
For over a century, Families First has successfully advocated for policies that have benefited youth in our community including the establishment of the first city playgrounds, legislation to license the practice of adoption in Georgia, and leading policy changes in the late 1980s to ensure that pregnant teens received the full benefits of a public education. Recently, Families First’s advocacy efforts teamed up with Georgia EmpowerMEnt, The Barton Child Law and Policy Center, Just Georgia, and other child welfare-related agencies in Atlanta to advocate for the rewrite of Georgia’s juvenile code known as the Child Protection and Public Safety Act (HB 127 and SB 641) to allow more comprehensive services for Georgia’s youth in foster care, specifically to encourage developmentally appropriate practices for youth aging out of foster care.
This week’s blog highlights “Rally for a Cause,” an event that Families First recently hosted to engage young Atlanta professionals and encourage them to contact their legislators to advocate for Georgia’s youth in foster care. By engaging the community in ensuring the success of children in jeopardy, Families First hopes to galvanize the community around the issues that youth face and to be the voice of change for a voiceless population. We hope that you will join us in these efforts, it’s easy! All you have to do is read more about the legislation, call your legislator, and speak up for Georgia’s children and youth, who are our greatest progeny.
Kim Anderson, Families First CEO
There are 450,000 youth in foster care in the United States. Of those youth, 30,000 age out of foster care each year without the basic support needed to be self sufficient adults. If you were to take a group of 100 youth in foster care, 25 of those youth would have post traumatic stress disorder, 25 would be homeless, 71 would need government assistance after aging out of care, 42 would be teen parents, and only 3 would earn a college degree. What can one person do to change these numbers for youth in Georgia’s foster care system? A lot.
Last week, Families First and the Georgia EmpowerMEnt team, a group of current and former foster youth who advocate on behalf of Georgia’s foster youth, rallied together to host “Rally for a Cause,” an event to raise awareness about what the juvenile code re-write will mean for the hundreds of youth poised to age out of foster care in the state of Georgia. About 30 Families First supporters and staff gathered to discuss the implications of the juvenile code re-write and to learn of simple ways that they can help.
“It is important that the laws require developmentally appropriate practice,” says Octavia Fugerson, a junior at Spelman College and a Georgia EmpowerMEnt Advocate, “My needs were a lot different when I was six than they were when I was 16. A re-write of the current juvenile code will be a step in the right direction to ensuring that older foster youth are provided with opportunities to successfully transition out of foster care.”
The re-write of the juvenile code will add a section to mandate the implementation of Independent Living Services (ILP) for all youth in foster care in the state of Georgia. Currently, Georgia does offer ILP services for youth in foster care but the re-write will ensure that all youth have access to these services and that youth who will age out of care will be provided with support that will help them to successfully transition out of foster care and become productive adults. According to Just Georgia, providing quality independent living services to children aging out of foster care reduces homelessness, teen pregnancy, and criminality, and improves educational and employment outcomes, saving up to $3 for every $1 spent.
“It takes a village to raise a child and every person in this room has the potential to contribute to changing the life of a child by speaking up”, says Giovan Bazan, Georgia EmpowerMEnt Advocate, “We all have a part to play in creating a community for children to be successful.”
A lot has happened in the last 40 years. The internet boom; the first African American US President was elected; smart phones are outselling PCs; and Reality TV has become more popular than nightly news. Ok, some milestones are more commendable than others, but nevertheless one thing is certain: it’s quite a different world today than it was in the 1970s. Even so, the state of Georgia‘s juvenile justice code has not been updated in 40 years. The 250-page document has the potential to improve outcomes for children and youth who are abused, who commit crimes or are deemed unruly, as well as youth who are in the custody of the state.
We have an opportunity to change the course that leads to a brighter future for so many youth. Won’t you join us? Write or call your legislator today and tell them to support HB 127 and SB 641. A simple call or letter to a legislator can make all the difference. See resources below that will give you the tools to advocate on behalf of Georgia’s foster youth.
Giovan Bazan, Georgia EmpowerMEnt advocate, speaks to the “Rally for a Cause” crowd about the importance of the juvenile code rewrite.