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Family Court Judges Take on Issues Faced by Youth
Aging Out of Foster Care System

Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, Success Beyond 18

Family Court Judge Peter Jones

Family Court Judges Peter Jones and Barbara Crowell, along with representatives of the Youth Advisory Council, at the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, Success Beyond 18.

On May 6, 2013, Family Court Chief Judge Chandlee Johnson Kuhn and Judges Peter Jones and Barbara Crowell traveled to Washington, D.C., to join with child welfare officials from around the country and youth who have experienced foster care to help launch the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, Success Beyond 18. Governor Jack Markell delivered the keynote address, underscoring his commitment to youth aging out of foster care.

The purpose of the initiative is to increase public understanding, to mobilize communities to take action, and to promote improved policies and practices aimed at creating a better path for all young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood. In sixteen sites, including Delaware, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is providing financial and staff support to develop programs and enhance resources for young adults exiting the foster care system. Active since January 2011, Delaware’s initiative (Delaware Youth Opportunities Initiative) is administered by the Delaware Center for Justice in cooperation with the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families and assists young people transitioning out of the state’s foster care system to manage life as an adult. The initiatives work to develop partnerships in the communities and resources for the youth to improve the systems of support for these youth. Family Court judges routinely monitor all children and youth in foster care in Delaware and the Court has extended jurisdiction to continue monitoring such youth past their eighteenth birthday when requested by the youth.

Governor Markell

Delaware Family Court Judges and others with Governor Markell, who delivered the keynote address at the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, Success Beyond 18.

Reads by 21 - Delaware's Success Beyond 18

Read By 21In the spring of 2012, after hearing compelling testimony from former foster care youth about the obstacles they encountered after leaving foster care at age 18, the Delaware General Assembly passed a resolution establishing a task force to study the issues facing youth exiting the foster care system in Delaware. Family Court Judges Jones, Crowell and Pyott were appointed by the Governor to serve on that task force along with six foster care youth. Following frequent meetings, the task force submitted a program proposal to Governor Jack Markell during the summer of 2012. In the fall of 2012, he designated $515,000 in his budget for programs to support youth aging out of foster care. Those funds became available this fiscal year to the Ready By 21-Success Beyond 18 Program.

A Ready By 21 Summit, attended by over 400 people, was held at Dover Downs in August 2013 to highlight the successful implementation of this program. Youth, Family Court Judges, lawyers, social workers, social service providers, and advocates came together to reflect on work performed to date; integrate youth and adults in decision-making; celebrate recent successes; and recommend additional improvements to the legal and social systems affecting youth aging out of foster care. The engagement of youth in the development and planning as well as their participation in the event was key to the success of the Ready by 21 Summit. Participants listened to national speakers from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, Legal Aid Society of New York, Build Social LLC, and the Child Welfare Court Improvement Project at New York State. Thirty different workshops were offered for both youth and professionals and focused on topics such as financial literacy programs, car insurance, employment training, independent living benchmarks, transition plans and youth involvement in court, post secondary education scholarships and aid, housing alternatives, juvenile expungements and many others. The event concluded with a talent show featuring the varied and extensive talents of members of the Youth Advisory Council, an organization for youth who have experienced foster care.

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