SPEAKOUT (Strong Positive Educated Advocates Keen On Understanding the Truth) is for youth in foster care and alumni who are interested in using their voice to provide input on foster care regulations, policy, guidance, and practice concerns, while also building advocacy and leadership skills.

The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) recognizes that they do better work with the input of those impacted by their policies. They need youth voice to really make a difference in the way youth are served in the foster care system. The youth advisory group will be responsible for providing feedback directly to VDSS and potentially to legislators, other state agencies, LDSS directors (the League), the Board for Social Services, and others.

Who can join the group?

Youth ages 14 and older who are currently in the foster care system or those who have had some experience being in foster care (foster care alumni) are eligible to apply to be a part of the group. This group will consist of 15-20 youth from across the state.

When will the group meet?

The initial kick-off of the youth advisory group will take place at the Project LIFE Statewide Youth Conference in November, although you do not need to attend the conference in order to be a part of the group. Youth who are accepted will come together in Charlottesville, VA at the Holiday Inn Monticello the weekend of January 21-22, 2017 and again March 18-19, 2017. During the initial meeting, youth will choose a name for the group and decide the structure, including the age range, bylaws, and possible officers.

How do I apply?

Youth who are interested in being a part of SPEAKOUT must submit an application. If the youth is still in care and/or receiving services from DSS, the youth’s DSS worker must also fill out the worker form. Once the application is submitted, the youth will be notified of whether or not he or she has been accepted.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

If you would like more information or if you have any questions, please contact Chauncey Strong or Letha Moore-Jones:

Chauncey Strong, MSW
Youth Development Specialist, VDSS

Letha Moore-Jones, MSW, MACE
Youth Services Supervisor, VDSS
(804) 726-7576