10 Ways to Support Youth

Project LIFE values and seeks the input of youth, especially when it comes to addressing what they need from the foster care system. During the October 2013 Statewide Conference, youth shared several things they felt are important for themselves and others in foster care. Below are their top 10 needs and the steps that local departments of social services can take to make them happen.

10 Ways to Support Youth

1. Medication

Youth do not want to take prescribed medication that is unnecessary or no longer needed. Family Services Specialists and Social Workers can assist with this by:

  • Regularly seeking input from youth on the helpfulness of the prescribed medication.
  • Requesting regular reviews of medication and dosage with youth, doctors and others as necessary to determine continued use.

2. Family Visitation

Youth need time to see and visit with their biological family members. You can assist with this by:

  • Following §16.1-252, which speaks to reasonable visitation between the youth and his/her natural parents, siblings, grandparents, and guardians.
  • If a youth has other siblings in foster care, §63.2-900.2 states that the visitation or communication plan shall take into account the wishes of the youth, and shall specify the frequency of visitation or communication

3. Social Life

Youth need to feel “normal” in spite of being in foster care. You can assist with this by:

  • Allowing visitation (including overnight) with friends.
  • Allowing access to cell phones (if monitoring is warranted, adults can use applications like “textguard” to supervise incoming/outgoing texts).

4. Driving Privileges

Youth need to know the steps to driving in the state of Virginia. You can assist with this by:

  • Ensuring that every youth has the opportunity to get a driver’s license before exiting care.
  • Teaching youth how to purchase a vehicle.
  • Teaching youth how to purchase insurance or get added to their foster parent’s policy.

5. Assistance and Support with Transitioning from Foster Care

Youth need a better understanding on how to transition from foster care and how to access community resources.You can assist with this by:

  • Regularly reviewing options with youth starting at age 17 until 21.
  • Teaching youth about life skills development around employment and money management.
  • Ensuring that youth have access to health care.
  • Providing assistance/support for teen mothers.

6. Emotional Support

Youth need to be encouraged in order to succeed in life. You can assist with this by:

  • Developing confidence in youth to seek their interests and skills.
  • Creating more opportunities for youth to take responsibility for making decisions that affect their lives.

7. Strengths-based Perspective

Youth do not want to be judged by the case notes in their file. You can assist with this by:

  • Avoiding negative language and terminology to describe youth.
  • Focusing on what youth have done well to lay the groundwork for realistic expectations.

8. Permanency

Youth need to belong to a family that loves and accepts them. You can assist with this by:

  • Continuing to search – beyond age 18 – for relatives and others with whom youth can form and maintain healthy relationships.
  • Creating opportunities for relatives and other supportive adults to attend decision-making meetings or serve in some aspect of the youth’s life.

9. Access to Financial Resources

Youth need a better understanding of what financial services are available to them. You can assist with this by:

  • Informing youth about the IL Stipend and how much money is available.
  • Informing youth about clothing vouchers.

10. Youth Voice

Youth need to have an active, ongoing voice in planning their life. You can assist with this by:

  • Allowing more time to decide on the appropriate IL program.
  • Selecting meeting times and places that are convenient for them.
  • Allowing freedom to choose what IL trainings/meeting to attend.