Elevating youth voices for Foster Care Awareness Month

blue and green images of three teenagers (two boys, one is white and one is Black) and one Black teenage girl with the words 'youth voices for foster care awareness' across teh bottom in white lettering

While National Foster Care Month is an appropriate time for us to reflect on our work within the foster care system, we want to bring it back to the core component of CASA’s vision – youth voice. Last month, we had the privilege to attend the quarterly OHIO YAB (Overcoming Hurdles in Ohio Youth Advisory Board) meeting, and to listen to young people from around the state who have foster care experience. One of the main topics discussed was reunification, which is when a child is initially placed in out-of-home care, but the child is later returned to their home of origin. The goal of the child welfare system across the state utilizes reunification as much as possible. We heard more about what this experience is actually like for youth involved, and want to share the expertise and recommendations from these young leaders.

Youth voice

When asked about opportunities to improve the reunification process, the OHIO YAB members shared that ongoing supports for young people in care are still needed. They emphasized having wraparound support for the entire family – therapy, access to community resources, life skills, and child care. Some youth believed that having quarterly check-ins with the entire family post-reunification would be helpful, and that having a sense of structure still in place could make a lasting difference. The OHIO YAB members also noted that prior to reunification, having access to skills classes and a stable environment so they could complete high school and prepare for college is helpful and needed.

The CASA difference

Annually in Ohio, more than 16,000 children experience the foster care system. Unfortunately, only 9,800 of them have a CASA Volunteer. Of those closed CASA cases, approximately 25% of them end in reunification. What’s unique about CASA’s impact for these children and families is that when a child has a CASA Volunteer, they are half as likely to ever reenter the child welfare system. Children with a CASA Volunteer are also more likely to receive professional support services like mental health care. They are also more likely to do well in school, and more likely to report higher levels of hope. By listening to the child and getting their voice heard in court, CASA Volunteers continue to make a lasting impact on the lives of children and families, regardless of the outcome of the case.

A child can never have too many people that love them and want to see them thrive. If you are interested in making a lasting impact in the lives of children and creating a better future for families in our community, send us an email at ohiocasa@ohiocasa.org.