Jim Casey Fellows Led Efforts to Improve Child Welfare

Posted February 7, 2024
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Two smiling young women of color — one wearing a headwrap — stand together while peering down at a laptop.

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.

Read about the newest cohort of Jim Casey Fellows

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