Youth Villages stories

LifeSet youth and staff in front of Congress building

Transition-age young adults discuss their experiences at U.S. Senate Caucus on Foster Care

Jul 21, 2023 | Blog, Foster Care Stories, LifeSet

A diverse group of young adults with lived experience in child welfare systems came together to share their experiences and push for the services and support that all transition-age foster youth need in Washington, D.C., recently.

The Lived Experience Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill was sponsored by the U. S. Senate Caucus on Foster Care and presented by Youth Villages. It was part of Foster Care Awareness and Mental Health Awareness months.

Youth Villages is a national nonprofit organization, serving more than 36,000 children, families and young adults every year in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Its LifeSet program is the largest in the country helping transition-age foster youth and one of the only program models to have shown impacts on many parts of a young person’s life in a randomized clinical trial.

LifeSet participants, Brandon and Abby talking at a table with congress staff

Participating in the panel were Abby Nelson and Brandon Washington, LifeSet Scholars from Memphis, Tennessee; Julmonzhae Moore, a LifeSet participant from Kentucky; Ali Massengill, a former LifeSet participant who is now regional supervisor of Youth Villages LifeSet and Intercept programs in Kentucky and Laticia Aossey, of Iowa, statewide program coordinator of AMP – Achieving Maximum Potential – a foster care youth advocacy council.

Washington entered foster care at age 15 and lived in five different foster homes. He described his time in care as a roller coaster.

I was able to use some of the downs on my ride that I call life to become passionate about changing the world. I’ve been able to meet officials to talk about how we can better the system for those who come after me.
- Brandon

The panel discussed the mental health support needed by those who experience foster care. “Going into foster care is traumatic,” Massengill said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re being removed from a negative environment, being removed from your biological family is a very traumatic event.” That trauma can cause anxiety, depression, and emotional and behavioral problems. Children and youth in foster care may have access to therapists, even regular sessions, but find it hard to trust and open up. Therapy may be more effective when they’re young adults in the transition-age. Aossey has direct care experience working with transition-age foster youth who experience mental health challenges. She said it can sometimes be very difficult to find providers with the experience needed to help young adults.
Brandon and Laticia walking down hallway
“You have to find providers who have specialized in working with foster youth, because obviously there’s a whole different set of concerns as opposed to young people who have grown up with consistent parents,” Aossey said. “It’s a challenge that I’ve seen as a social worker. We need more people who have expertise in this type of work.” The panel was moderated by Elina Morrison, a former LifeSet scholar and recent master’s degree graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, who is now a federal policy intern at Youth Villages. After the panel, participants met with individual Senators and staff to discuss their policy recommendations.

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