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Youth Thrive™ Learning Community Meeting Recap: Working to Improve Outcomes for Youth Involved with Public Systems

  ·   By Derick Gomez

Earlier in the month (December 4-6), CSSP hosted the third Youth Thrive™ Learning Community Meeting in Clearwater, Florida. The convening brought together thought leaders, practitioners, administrators and youth advocates and challenged them to consider how to move from the concepts and research that undergird the Youth Thrive™ framework into specific strategies for improving outcomes for youth in foster care, juvenile justice or who had experienced homelessness.

Youth advocates and foster care alumni played key roles throughout the meeting, participating in plenaries, sharing opinions and leading concurrent workshops. Georgia EmpowerMEnt Youth Advocate Brittany Myers gave a thought-provoking and energizing speech to open the second day of the convening, speaking about the importance of adults getting to know youth in care to tailor casework to the young person’s specific needs.

CSSP Senior Fellow Steve Cohen reinforced Myer’s assertion during a presentation on CSSP’s “transformational relationships” research, which examines the type of relationships between adult workers and youth that promote positive change in the lives of youth. Leaders from Seneca Family of Agencies (Moses Santos) and Anu Family Services (Erin Wall)—two Youth Thrive exemplary initiatives—and Kaysie Getty, an MSW student at Rutgers and foster care alum, shared concrete steps to apply the research and discussed innovative hiring practices, supervisory supports and training opportunities that promote the development of meaningful relationships.

During his candid and inspirational keynote speech, Children’s Village CEO, Jeremy Kohomban, challenged the audience to consider the historical failures of the child welfare system. Kohomban spoke of our ability to continually improve practice, particularly by recognizing and addressing issues of implicit bias and by prioritizing a young person’s need for love and belonging.

Youth Thrive™ exemplary initiatives and sites got the opportunity to showcase how they are implementing the framework into policy and practices during the Gallery Walk Poster Session. Sites filled the hotel ballroom with colorful tri-fold boards showcasing their programs and initiatives for youth engagement, training, assessment and policy changes. These boards remained throughout the conference as a reminder of the positive and creative environment fostered by these leaders (lovingly referred to as “disrupters of the status quo”).

Representatives from Brevard’s Youth Leadership Academy closed out the convening on a high with a rap about youth voice and choice that reminded the audience why we do this important work.

Attendees of the convening are on the frontlines of creating better systems for youth moving forward. Learning from the past is critical in this effort. The Youth Thrive™ Learning Community Meeting provided a rich environment for brainstorming about how to continue working to improve the futures of every child and family and drove home the message that no time is better than right now to bring home these strategies and apply them in practice.

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Derick Gomez is a program and research assistant at CSSP.

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