Our Youth Advocates Are Awesome!
Above: 2016-2017 youth advocates in Youth Fostering Change and Juveniles for Justice, program alumni, and Juvenile Law Center Staff.
Juvenile Law Center runs two annual youth advocacy programs – Youth Fostering Change (YFC) and Juveniles for Justice (J4J) – and celebrates the youth advocates’ accomplishments at the close of each program in May. Last Tuesday, we celebrated our awesome 2016-2017 youth advocates and were thrilled to host our community partners and alumni of both programs at the celebration at Juvenile Law Center’s office.
We started these youth advocacy programs nearly ten years ago to uplift youth voices and first-hand experiences of the child welfare and justice systems. Our youth advocates are leaders and develop their own advocacy projects to reform those systems. These stellar young people affect change through policy advocacy, media outreach, and public education campaigns.
Above: J4J, YFC, and Juvenile Law Center staff with Philadelphia Family Court judges.
Each year, Youth Fostering Change and Juveniles for Justice each select one issue for their annual projects. This year, Juveniles for Justice chose economic justice for youth and built their campaign in conjunction with Juvenile Law Center’s economic justice work on the impact of juvenile court costs and fees on youth and their families. Juveniles for Justice worked to create a series of recommendations to address these issues and encourage rehabilitative alternatives to fines, fees, and placement. Youth Fostering Change focused on empowering youth in dependency court hearings, and their project included recommendations and tools to improve youth attendance, participation and self-advocacy during their own court hearings.
Above: J4J youth advocates reading their poem at a Philadelphia City Council hearing in March, 2017. Following the hearing, Philadelphia changed the citywide policy on “child support” fine collection in the child welfare system.
Juveniles for Justice will spend the summer promoting their recommendations and alternatives to juvenile court fines, fees, and placement. They’re collaborating with artist and musician Camae Ayewa (Moor Mother) on a digital recording of an original poem expressing the hardships juvenile court costs cause youth and their families. J4J advocates will also partner with a tech agency to develop a digital game to use as a training tool for attorneys, court officials, probation officers, and people working in juvenile facilities.
Above: YFC youth advocates meet with Philadelphia Department of Human Services Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa.
Youth Fostering Change will finalize and distribute a court “empowerment card” for youth in care, their formal recommendations for reforms, and a easy-to-use form to help youth and their attorneys plan better for court hearings. YFC youth will also spend the summer working with PhillyCam on a video about their project and highlighting their recommendations.
Both YFC and J4J youth will continue to meet with Philadelphia Department of Human Services Commissioner Cynthia Figueroa, the Defender Association of Philadelphia, the Support Center for Child Advocates, and Philadelphia Family Court judges. Youth advocates will present their recommendations, reports, and resources so that stakeholders can pursue important, youth-led systemic reforms.
We are so proud of all our youth advocates and are thrilled to continue working with them as they complete and zealously promote their projects to key stakeholders in Philadelphia, statewide, and across the country. We can’t wait to share their completed projects and outcomes with you later this summer!