TNOYS’ work is guided by youth-adult partnership, which is a shift in thinking that challenges us to look at youth differently and include their voices and input into plans, strategies, and services to support them. In celebration of Foster Care Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, we’re reflecting on our partnerships with young people that center youth voice and expertise in systems-change work.
An important part of our effort is strengthening services for youth transitioning to adulthood or aging out of the foster care system. The transition to adulthood can be challenging for any young person, but youth who are involved in systems or experiencing homelessness face additional obstacles. Data show that one out of four youth who age out of foster care will experience at least one period of homelessness before age 21. What’s more, many young people have spoken about mental health challenges as they attempt to navigate life changes and new responsibilities in addition to past trauma.
From storytelling projects to policy advocacy, TNOYS is working in partnership with young people to help ensure transition-age youth are heard and supported. Learn more about our efforts below.
Youth Tell Their Stories on Transitioning to Adulthood
TNOYS’ Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) has played a crucial role in helping our team understand the challenges of youth transitioning to adulthood.Our new video series with the YALC features youth stories on the transition to adulthood, milestones like aging out of foster care, and services that could have helped. Hear from YALC members Jorge and Sabrina in the first video below:
This is the first in a video series on the challenges youth face when transitioning to adulthood. Stay tuned for more of their stories and perspectives!
Supporting Transition-Age Youth During the 87th Legislative Session
Among our many priorities during the 87th Legislative Session, TNOYS was excited to champion legislation to support young people aging out of foster care or otherwise transitioning to adulthood. Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC) members and TNOYS young adult staff played an important role by testifying in support of these bills. Legislative priorities included Senate Bill 2054 to assist youth and young adults in obtaining their driver’s licenses including paying for drivers’ education and ensuring cars are accessible to youth to take their driving tests.
TNOYS also prioritized SB 1084 that is focused on preventing homelessness and preparing youth to enter adulthood as they age out of care. Among many provisions in the bill, the legislation requires that caseworkers work with youth to create a secure email address that will allow them to keep all of their documents secure; support youth to begin taking their medication on their own at age 17, begin preparing for youths’ housing transition earlier and help youth in Supervised Independent Living (SIL) secure a rental history, We also prioritized HB 700, a bill that will provide college credit for youth who complete Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) classes to allow them to lock in their tuition waiver.
Learn more about youth and young adult advocacy at the Texas Capitol here, and stay tuned for a complete recap of the legislative session.
Elevating Youth Voice in the Preparation for Adult Living Independent Living Study Guide (ILSG)
TNOYS is also excited to partner with YALC members and young adult staff to lead an update of DFPS’ Preparation for Adult Living Independent Study Guide to ensure the next update of the guide is shaped by youth themselves.
For the first stage of the project, TNOYS young adults with lived expertise on staff led a complete redesign of the ILSG, with interactive activities for youth to fill out, reflect, and discuss with others. The material was also updated to include new important topics for transitioning to adulthood such as learning credits, resume building, mentorship, and more. For the second stage of the project the TNOYS team partnered with our YALC to perform youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR), to research the needs of youth in care through listening sessions.
YPAR is an innovative approach to positive youth and community development where YYAs are trained to conduct systematic research to improve their lives, their communities, and the systems intended to serve them. Youth in the PAL program and young adults that have aged out of care are helping TNOYS understand the topics and content that are important to include in the future PAL curriculum. We’re now working with the YALC on updating the guide with additional resources that are relevant to transition-age youth more broadly. Stay tuned for more updates as this project progresses!
Youth-Adult Partnership at TNOYS’ 38th Annual Conference
Youth-adult partnership has also been central to our plans for TNOYS’ 38th Annual Conference, which takes place June 8 – 11. The conference offers many opportunities to hear directly from young people on topics such as mental health, trauma-informed care, and transitioning to adulthood. Several workshops, including Resources for Youth in Foster Care, and Engaging and Promoting Youth Leaders are being facilitated by YALC members. Learn about youth-led trainings in the program preview, and be sure to register for the conference here.
These are just a few of the ways TNOYS has worked with young adult partners recently. Stay tuned for updates on our storytelling, PAL ILSG, and policy work, and be sure to join us at TNOYS’ 38th Annual Conference to hear more from our youth and young adult partners.