Operation: Education - Three Years Later
For years the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania failed to address structural barriers that lead to imbalanced and inadequate education for youth with involvement in the justice and child welfare systems but Act 1 is the first step to correcting that.
Beginning in January 2022, any student who experiences “education instability” due to homelessness, foster care, involvement in the juvenile justice system, or court-ordered placements will now have the support they deserve, including a point of contact to help them receive a high school diploma. Act 1 Points of Contact (POCs) hold great power to welcome a youth to the school community and ensure ongoing school success and timely graduation. Valuing the power of youth voice, we worked with youth advocates to develop a Point of Contact Tips and Best Practice resource to arm youth with the information they need to advocate for themselves and provide clear direction to educators. Brit Christopher, Advocates Transforming Youth Systems (ATYS) Alum who worked on Operation Education, reflects on the journey stating, “[There was] a lot of debating and making sure the important things were added to this; the whole team was very intentional about what we wanted this to be. So, brainstorming and sharing our experiences with each other really contributed to the work we did. I hope educators make themselves aware of this and know why students need Act 1.”
Bree, Advocates for Youth Justice (A4YJ) Alum, adds, “we put all of our hard work and dedication into this project to really help youth with justice system involvement graduate on time by having their credits transferred to their home schools as they transition out of juvenile placements. I hope that youth see this opportunity to really take control over their education especially once they leave the system and return to their home school.”
“Didn’t you wish when you were younger for at least one person you could contact, who you could trust? Young people in the child welfare system deserve the same. Having reliable points of contact means that youth can communicate effectively and appropriately without feeling judged or worried that what they say won’t be heard. Imagine being a student changing from one school or placement to another. You might have some people in your life, such as your case manager, who help you with the transfer process, but a lot of information about the young person is missing or not getting addressed." - Duane, ATYS Youth Advocate.
Thinking back on positive adult advocate experiences or lack thereof, youth advocates created an extensive list of intentional and impactful ways a point of contact can support a young person in need of education stability. “I hope this reaches all youth and allows folks to graduate on time and create a support system within their school so that youth won’t have to figure out these things alone,” said Brit.
Bree shared "I feel really good and so happy that we have accomplished this and gotten as far as we did with this project.”
Reclaiming their right to education, youth stand up for what’s right! Check out our POC resource and create a pathway to opportunities instead of a barrier to success.