Welcome! Effectively Engaging Foster Youth with Disabilities in Transition Planning: Cheryl A. Theis, Education Advocate and Director, Foster Youth with Disabilities in Transition (FYDT) at DREDF andJacob Lesner-Buxton, CSUEB MSW Student and DREDF Intern
About the Presenters Cheryl Theis I am an education advocate at DREDF*, a foster and adoptive parent of children with disabilities, and mother of 5. I specialize in working with caregivers and professionals involved with foster youth with disabilities in transition, and have experience in direct service to youth as well, co-developing and running a transition program at a therapeutic high school. *The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund’s mission is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education and public policy and legislative development. We envision a just world where all people, with and without disabilities, live full and independent lives free of discrimination.
About the Presenters Jacob Lesner-Buxton Jacob is an MSW student at Ca State University East Bay, a disability rights activisit, and a person with a disability. He has participated in the CA Youth Leadership Forum for students with disabilities, and has participated in trainings around disability issues in the United States and abroad. *The Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund’s mission is to advance the civil and human rights of people with disabilities through legal advocacy, training, education and public policy and legislative development. We envision a just world where all people, with and without disabilities, live full and independent lives free of discrimination.
Webinar Objectives • What is the current situation? • What are the Barriers to more positive outcomes for FFY? Education, Child Welfare, Disability Community • What is the YOUTH perspective? • What services/supports/rights are available and how can ILCs become an access point? • What can ILCs and other stakeholders do to improve outcomes and promote connection and integration • Questions and answers, discussion
The Dilemma “In general, in order to access services designated specifically for people with disabilities, a person with the disability needs to have an acknowledged diagnosis of disability…a person must meet the appropriate pre-determined criteria in order to access publicly funded services…the diagnosis can come from a number of sources: medical professionals, education professionals, social workers, or the person with a disability himself or herself. However, for many individuals with disabilities, as well as for many social work professionals, there is a reluctance to self-identify or “label” someone as having a disability…”* * Hill et al, Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, Volume 5, Number 3 (2008)
Snapshot of Outcomes(From the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability) • The average age of functional independence in the US is 26. Parents provide an essential safety net from 18-26 (and on!). • Youth in foster care face extraordinary challenges in the areas of mental health, education, employment and finances without that safety net.
Snapshot of Outcomes(From the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability) • Almost 80% of adults formerly in foster care have significant mental health disabilities. • 25% experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) within the previous 12 months. (Higher rates than returning Iraq Veterans) • No more than 45% of emancipated youth reporting earnings in any one quarter over a 13-quarter period. • 33% have incomes at or below the federal poverty level.
Snapshot of Outcomes(From the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability) • High numbers of former foster youth experience multiple school changes from elementary through high school, complete high school via GED, not regular diploma, or drop out altogether. • Only 3% go to college, although 70% report wanting to go. 1% complete a BA. • Large numbers of former foster care youth exit care without assurance of stable housing. • Almost a quarter experiencing homelessness after leaving care.
Snapshot of Outcomes(From the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability) • The birth rate for young women in foster care (17.2%) is more than double the rate of their peers outside of the foster care system (8.2%). • Mothers who emancipate out of foster care at increased risk of losing child to foster care also. • 1/3rd lack health insurance. (almost 2X rate of general population) • Many unaware of benefits available to them as both former foster youth (financial aid, MediCal, CHAFEE grants, Guardian Scholar Programs) and as a person with a disability (SSI, DSPS support).
Snapshot of Outcomes(From the National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability) • 70% of California’s inmates were in the foster care system at one time. • 42% of inmates have an identified disability. • 82% had indications of specific learning or mental health disabilities.
Education Issues • Many youth in foster care are not identified as having a disability. • IEP and 504 plans for youth in care are often of poor quality and not IDEA or Section 504 compliant. • Transition Planning is a particular issue.
Transition Planning in Education* IEP’s are less likely to include: • Goals for post-secondary education (than youth in special education only). Only 31% of plans had a goal in this area. • Goals for developing independent living skills (than youth in special education only).Only 16% of plans had a goal in this area. * Findings from 2004 Fostering Futures Project (OHSU)
Transition Planning in Education* IEP’s often have: • Significantly fewer goals overall (than youth in special education only). 20% had no Measurable post secondary goals. • No plan for how to reach goals.32% of transition goals listed on the plans had no accompanying action steps. * Findings from 2004 Fostering Futures Project (OHSU)
FYWD often receive lower level of Special Education Services In a comparison of youth in foster care receiving special education to a group receiving special education but not in foster care: • Education and Transition Plans of foster youth were lower in quality. • Transition Plans of foster youth were 1/2 as likely to contain goals regarding education after high school. (31% vs. 60%) • Foster youth were less likely to have an advocate at the meeting (42% vs. 69%).
FYWD often receive lower level of Special Education Services • Caseworkers typically absent. Only 31% of plans provided any indication that the caseworker had attended the meeting. • Caseworkers and families listed as responsible for transition activities even though not at meeting. • Only 7% of Transition Plans contained discussion about student’s emancipation from Child Welfare. • Less than 25% of the plans made any reference to Independent Living Programs.
FYWD often receive lower level of Special Education Services • List the student as responsible for working on transition goals, w/little or no support from others. Almost 25% of time, the student listed as sole person responsible for working towards a goal. • Rarely describe effective practices known to promote successful transition outcomes (self-determination training, person-centered or career planning, extra-curricular activities, mentoring, individualized financial support, disability empowerment).
FYWD often receive lower level of Special Education Services • Less than 25% of the plans make any reference to Independent Living Programs or other Transition Planning occurring through Child Welfare. REMEMBER! BRINGING CIL, DOR, REGIONAL CENTER AND OTHER AGENCIES INTO THE EDUCATION PLANNING PROCESS IS KEY!
Child Welfare Issues • Focus on safety first. • Voluntary nature of Independent Living Programs means many youth with disabilities are left out. • Lack of understanding of Disability. • Perception that labeling youth will harm, not help. • Lack of understanding of adult resources, including ILCs.
Child Welfare: What is Emancipation? • In CA, state may retain jurisdiction over children in foster care up to age 21 but not required to do so. • California law prohibits automatic emancipation based solely on age, but most youth who reach age 18 find their cases terminated. • Statewide, 72% of those emancipating are 18 years old. Just 13% older than 18.
Child Welfare: What is Emancipation? • Law permits youth to remain in care for other reasons, but only enunciated exception is for those who at age 18 have not graduated HS or passed the GED but on track to complete an education/vocational program by 19. These youth may be able to stay in their foster care placements until they turn 19. Dilemma:Those who have not completed high school or other programs before age 19, (youth with disabilities can receive special education until age 22) are even less prepared for independence.
Child Welfare Transition: • Requires that a Transitional Independent Living Plan (TILP) be developed for a youth who is between the ages of 15½ and 16 by the county social worker/probation officer, with the active participation of the youth and other supporting adults. • Purpose: to describe the youth’s current level of functioning and identify emancipation goals, services, activities, and individuals assisting the youth in the process of obtaining self-sufficiency.  This Plan can include connecting youth to ILCs!  California Department of Social Services. All County Letter 08-31
Child Welfare: What is the Independent Living Program? ILP is a voluntary program that provides training for foster youth, foster parents, kinship care providers, and group home staff to more effectively prepare foster youth for independent living: • Budgeting and banking • Career Planning • Securing and Maintaining housing • College Preparation • Obtaining health care & MediCal • Financial aid • Health and Hygiene • Problem solving
Important: Youth in Foster Care need Integration of Services and Advocacy • Schools do not understand how the Child Welfare system works. • Neither understands Disability issues, history or resources. • Laws that provide educational rights, access and nondiscrimination to youth in school presume and depend on Parental involvement and advocacy. • Child Welfare depends on reports from Educators to make decisions but no clear bridge between institutions.
Important: FYWDs need to learn SELF ADVOCACY • Parent or other adult often “runs interference” with CIL, DSP, Regional Centers as youth transition out of school. FY often do not have anyone to take this on. • Essential that Transition Plans at School include ACTIVE teaching about the disability and how to self advocate, and that goals be written that require this. • ILCs can be important connection here—Youth Leadership Forum, Disability History, etc. But Schools need to invite them in as there is no one else to do so.
Important: FYWDs need Mentors • Double labels: Foster Youth AND Person with a Disability • Many see these labels as stigmatizing and wish to emancipate and leave them behind. • Success may depend on understanding that labels link to services, not to value, identity or self worth.
The Youth PerspectiveShame and Lack of Connections “I think it’s part of the culture of foster care to always wonder if you’re worth it. You feel like you were never good enough for your original family, or for any other family. I carried those things around in my own heart without even realizing it. Then I looked at these other people who I thought were so worthy, and found out they had the same feelings of worthlessness that I did. I could recognize that regardless of how they felt about themselves, they were good, they were loveable. Then I could finally extend that to myself. Connecting to other alumni of foster care has been a new kind of freedom and love and belonging that I never found anywhere before” --Former Foster Youth http://www.youthcomm.org/FCYU-Features/MarchApril2008/FCYU-2008-03-35b.htm
The Youth PerspectiveShame and Lack of Connections “There’s a perception that … these foster kids … if they’re not with their mother or father, that means no one wants them, and no one wants them for a reason, so I think they’re almost seen as a lost cause.” —Jelani, former foster youth
What do FYWD Need?* • To understand the relationships between benefits planning and career choices. • To learn to communicate their disability-related work support and accommodation needs. • To learn to find, formally request and secure appropriate supports and reasonable accommodations in education, training and employment settings. * (From Guideposts to Success/NCWD)
What do FYWD Need?* • Mentors and role models including persons with and without disabilities. • An understanding of disability history, culture, and disability public policy issues as well as their rights and responsibilities. * (From Guideposts to Success/NCWD)
What do FYWD Need? • Acquisition of appropriate assistive technologies. • Community orientation and mobility training (e.g. accessible transportation, bus routes, housing, health clinics). • Personal assistance services, including attendants, readers, interpreters, or other such services. • Benefits planning counseling. • Exposure to post-program supports such as independent living centers and other consumer-driven community-based support service agencies.
The Disability Angle • People with Disabilities have fought hard to be included, have access and participate in and build community. • Foster Youth may feel ashamed of disability, and the Disability Community needs to be sensitive to the reluctance to identify as a PWD.
Independent Living Centers (ILCs) ILCs provide six core services: • Housing referrals • Information and Referral • Peer counseling • Independent Living Skills Training • Personal Assistant Services • Individual and Systems Change advocacy In addition centers may provide benefits counseling, employment readiness training, assistive technology services and legal aid.
Independent Living Centers (ILCs) • ILCs believe the role of empowerment is key to the independence of a person with a disability (PWD). For many, control has been unavailable because of agencies “taking care of their needs.” However, when empowered to live his or her own life, the consumer is more active, independent and able to be a vocal and productive member of society. • THIS PHILOSOPHY IS KEY TO OUTREACH TO FOSTER YOUTH WITH DISABILITIESwho have experienced such loss of control around both disability and dependency status and often do not trust agencies/institutions.
Barriers to bringing Youth Leaving Foster Care into ILCs • Stigma (Youth want to be “NORMAL”). • Systemic problems. • Youth and other agencies do not understand benefits. • Bureaucratic “burnout.” • Lack of training for Child Welfare and Education re: disability civil rights/community available. • “Voluntary” nature of Independent Living Skills Programs means youth who can’t or won’t participate may not get “plugged in.” • Foster parents/group homes caring for youth with disabilities lack training in transition AND in disability.
Another Connecting Resource:California Youth Connection • The California Youth Connection (CYC) is an organization that advocates for current and former foster youth ages 14-24. • Contact the CYC statewide office at 1-800-397-8236. • Involving youth with CYC, helps them develop leadership and public speaking skills while helping make the foster care system better, and connects youth to each other.
Youth Organizing, Disabled and Proud: YO! • Important Resource:Youth with disabilities experience social isolation.For Youth in Foster Care, this is even more likely. • Disability in society is seen as a problem, something that needs to be fixed or cured, or a tragedy. Common view within Child Welfare, labeling children seen as detrimental to their potential permanency and outcomes.
Youth Organizing, Disabled and Proud: YO! • Youth with disabilities are often segregated in special education classes, placed in institutions, and encouraged to hide their disability and to “pass” as non-disabled. For Youth in Foster Care, there is the additional burden of the stigma of being a “Foster Child”. • YO! assists youth with disabilities to learn about the disability rights movement, disability history, disability pride, disability organizing and advocacy. • How do we reach foster youth more effectively?
What can ILCs do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? Ask Ourselves: • How will they find us? • How will they get to us? • How will they know we are there for them? • How will they know that we “get it”?
What can ILCs do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? REACH OUT: • To county child welfare system, esp. ILP.Offer to do presentations on Disability Rights, Culture, and ILC resources for both YOUTH and STAFF. • To School Districts/County Boards of Education, Special Education Staff. • To Adult Education Programs where many older youth receive services (to age 22).
What can ILCs do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? REACH OUT: • To Non-Public Therapeutic and Residential Schools (many foster youth are placed in these). • To Caregivers (Group Homes, Foster Parent Associations, Kin care Providers). • To Disabled Student Programs at Colleges, Workability Programs, Job Corps. • Regional Centers/DDS.
What can ILCs (and other direct service agencies)do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? BE AWARE: • Many youth clients will not “identify” themselves as former foster youth • Homeless youth are very likely to have spent time in Foster Care—ask! • FYWD may not be aware of their disability status—ASK if they had an IEP or 504 plan, but also ask if they “received special help” in school.
What can ILCs (and other direct service agencies)do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? TIP: • Assist Youth in requesting school records to determine when last assessed, if eligible, disability designation, etc.
What can ILCs (and other direct service agencies)do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? For youth coming who have “DROPPED OUT” of school, BE PARTICULARLY AWARE: • Mental health, behavioral and learning disabilities put students at risk of being “pushed” out when needs are not met—esp. when there is no parent advocating for youth.
What can ILCs (and other direct service agencies)do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? • If assessments in school or health records are more than three years old, youth have difficulty qualifying for services in college, accommodations for GED, SAT, etc. • Encourage youth to use time sensitive benefits (MediCal) to get new assessments, or refer to “assessment classes” available at some community colleges.
What can ILCs (and other direct service agencies)do to support Youth Emancipating out of Foster Care? EDUCATE OURSELVES: • What are Chafee Grants? • How does financial aid work for these youth? • SSI (special requirements for counties to help youth apply prior to emancipation). • What Housing Options exist (THP)?
For a copy of today’s PowerPoint presentation and links to additional resources, visit the DREDF website at http://www.dredf.org/special_education/trainings.shtml
For more information on CILs • Contact the local Independent Living Center • Or call CFILC at: Phone (916) 325-1690TDD (916) 325-1695Fax (916) 325- 1699 • Visit the CFILC web site at www.cfilc.orgfor a listing of Centers and contact information.
For More Information on Education Rights for Foster Youth with Disabilities or suspected disabilities • Contact DREDF, or • Contact Local Parent Training and Information (PTI) Center (see resources).
Parent Training & Information (PTI) Centers provide technical assistance and training to parents/guardians of school-age children with disabilities, and professionals who serve them. PTIs by region/state:http://www.taalliance.org/ptidirectory/pclist.asp Contact DREDF at: Phone/TTY (510) 644-2555 Toll Free (800) 348-4232 Fax (510) 841-8645 Email email@example.com Website www.dredf.org
Thank you!This project is funded using 7B funds allocated by the California State Independent Living Council and distributed/administered by the California Department of Rehabilitation.