Jim Casey Fellows Led Efforts to Improve Child Welfare
The 2022 cohort of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative® Fellows — leaders and advocates who have experienced foster care — learned by leading. As part of the yearlong fellowship, they spearheaded child welfare system-change projects. As they worked to advance effective policies and improve their communities, the Fellows received peer coaching from participants in previous cohorts as well as support from the Casey Foundation experts, Jim Casey Initiative site partners and other local organizations.
The 2022 class of Jim Casey Fellows and their home states include:
- Addison Anderson (Arizona)
- Christian Anderson (Ohio)
- Elena Bolanos (Mississippi)
- Sierra Burns (South Carolina)
- Jozie Caudillo (Kansas)
- Mauri Clift (Nebraska)
- Ari Corthen (Indiana)
- Melvin Gaye (Iowa)
- Ashawntae James (Pennsylvania)
- Taylor Lee (Rhode Island)
- Anastasia Neumann (Hawaii)
- Noah Patnaude (Maine)
- Mariah Thompson-Grissett (North Carolina)
- Saphire Woodruff (Oklahoma)
Their projects, completed in 2023, will continue to benefit young people who are in and transitioning from the child welfare system.
Engaging Child Welfare Decision Makers
Two Fellows, Addison Anderson and Ashawntae James, helped develop the Casey Foundation’s Fostering Youth Transitions 2023: Community Conversation Guide through collaboration with the Journey to Success policy advocacy campaign. The guide equips young people, state advocates and decision makers with national and state-level data trends that shed light on the experiences of teens and young adults in and transitioning from foster care.
Youth councils across the country are using the conversation guide to tell state leaders what they need to successfully transition to adulthood.
Helping Caseworkers Understand Older Youth
Noah Patnaude partnered with the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative to design and facilitate part of an orientation training where new caseworkers heard directly from young people about their experiences in foster care.
“The project of building a youth voice component for the training illustrated the impact of offering perspectives directly from the people you serve,” says Ahmen Cabral, a senior policy associate at the University of Southern Maine’s Catherine Cutler Institute, the Jim Casey Initiative site in Maine. “Many of the caseworkers expressed thanks for the insight and that they were leaving the training with a deeper understanding of the needs of those in the system.”
In South Carolina, Sierra Burns helped social service workers grasp the needs of transition-age youth as they began implementing the state’s new extended foster care law. At a ceremony observing the law’s passing, Burns presented on her experience of aging out of care.
Building Resources for Other Young People
Many Fellows used their projects to address the gaps in support they faced while in or exiting care, emphasizing the need for young people to be informed about available resources.
Christian Anderson spent the year designing an outreach program for young people in foster care in Ohio. It allows them to fill out a form specifying the resources they seek. The youth can then receive access to a growing list of peer-referred resources, including job and housing leads and financial assistance options.
In Indiana, Ari Corthen researched the state’s wellness resources to share with young people in foster care in the future.