The Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, co-chaired by Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), today hosted its first event of the new “Speakers Series.” The series is designed to bring “grassroot practitioners of innovative programs and strategies” to Washington, DC to share their approaches to improving outcomes for foster youth. The goal is to inform policymakers and advocates about what is happening and working for foster kids around the country.
Today’s event featured four speakers:
- Daniel Heimpel, Director of Fostering Media Connections
- Pat O’Brien, Founder and Executive Director of You Gotta Believe!
- Sharif Griggs Grundberg, a former foster youth who was adopted at age 19
- Molly McGrath, Director of Baltimore City Department of Social Services
Heimpel talked about his mission to raise media awareness about policies and practices that will improve the well-being of children in foster care and to foster a culture of “solution-based journalism” in contrast to the media practice of chasing headlines. O’Brien gave an overview of the unfortunate outcomes experienced by many children who age out of foster care in New York City and described his organization’s dedicated work to recruit adoptive parents for older youth in foster care. Grundberg spoke of the impact of permanency on his own life since his adoption three years ago and compared his successful outcome to those of his former classmates who aged out of foster care without support and are now homeless. Finally, McGrath spoke about the importance of caseworker training and inter-department cooperation at the local level, including sharing data on “red-flag” issues (such as chronic absence rates and arrests) with child welfare agencies so they can intervene at an early stage, in reducing the need for out-of-home care. The lively discussion was just the first in a series of important gatherings.