A Pathway to System Change

We connect current and former foster youth around the nation to elected representatives and decision makers so that, together, we can create brighter futures for children, families, and young adults.

Today there are more than 400,000 children in foster care in the United States. We believe that each one deserves a safe, supportive, and honorable upbringing — no matter who they are or where they come from. Despite good intentions, however, government bureaucracies that oversee the child welfare system often fail to deliver on promises to create a better life for these vulnerable children. As a result, many foster youth experience a childhood that is far from ideal.

NFYI Youth Girls Smile

We aim to change that by radically reforming the child welfare system.

We’re educating and working with elected officials at the national and local levels. We’re partnering with like-minded organizations to build a network for change. We’re mobilizing donors and activists who are ready to invest their resources and time to become champions for children. And most importantly, we’re elevating foster youth voices and building a new generation of grassroots leaders; because the people with firsthand experience in the child welfare system should have a seat at the table and lead us all towards system change.

How we inform and impact national policy:

One of our community partners shares an NFYI Instagram post about our Congressional Shadow Day program and a 19-year-old who recently transitioned out of foster care sees it.

The former foster youth applies to Shadow Day, is accepted into the program, and becomes a delegate in Washington, D.C.

The delegate makes new friends and attends workshops on telling their personal story.

On Shadow Day, the delegate meets with their Member of Congress and staff. The delegate tells their story about the challenges of leaving foster care in their community.

After returning home and with support from NFYI, the delegate follows up with their Member of Congress and the member’s Policy Advisor and builds an ongoing relationship with them.

With support from NFYI, the delegate hosts a community engagement event to educate the public on the proposed legislation and invites other former foster youth to attend. People post on social media and the local media attends the event, raising public awareness.

The Member of Congress introduces legislation that would increase funding for housing for former foster youth and the Policy Advisor reaches out to the delegate to share.

The delegate emails the Member and Advisor local news articles and op-eds they’ve published with the help of NFYI. The Member and Advisor share internship opportunities and local resources with the delegate.

Former foster youth and those who support them reach out to their own Members of Congress to tell them about the issue the bill addresses. NFYI provides suggested email language and a script for phone calls.

Educated by their constituents, a growing number of Members of Congress sign on to the bill as co-sponsors.

The bill is passed!

NFYI reminds the delegate to reach out and thank the bill’s writer. They stay in touch and the delegate provides feedback on how the bill is being implemented in their community.

What we do:

We create platforms, opportunities, and leadership development that allow foster youth voices to be lifted up and heard at both the local and federal levels.

Current and former foster youth spend a week in Washington, D.C. attending trainings and workshops, culminating in a day spent shadowing a Member of Congress.

Paid internships ensure that foster youth voices are the foundation of our work and help prepare interns for future jobs and leadership roles.

Current and former foster youth focus on issues specific to their communities and move us toward our goal of having a community leader in every Congressional District.

Foster youth voices from around the nation:

Explore issues we address:

COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated many of the social, public, and medical disparities in our country and strained a child welfare system that already struggled to provide adequate medical care.
We’re supporting former foster youth who are mobilizing in their communities to fight for the 20 percent of youth who will leave foster care and immediately become homeless.
A dream for many and a necessity for most, higher education remains elusive for 97% of foster youth. We’re creating opportunities to knock down the barriers to postsecondary education.
Children who have been in foster care have a high risk of being incarcerated. Our programs aim to disrupt the foster care-to-prison pipeline and address the disparities and discrimination that lead to it.
A child’s zip code shouldn’t determine whether or not they get a safe, supportive, and honorable upbringing. Our work to establish a National Standard of Care will empower foster youth to thrive in life, no matter where they live or who they are.
NFYI is making the health and wellness of our members one of our top programmatic priorities. Many of the children who enter foster care have complicated medical and mental health issues and lack adequate access to health services.
True foster power begins in the ballot box when we elect decision makers who are strong community partners and do the work to mobilize the youth vote.
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