Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Upcoming Fresno Events Highlight the Needs of Foster Youth

About the author: My name is Samantha and I am Aspiranet’s Program Manager for THP-Plus and HPRPin Fresno. For the last 1 ½ years, I have helped youth emancipating from foster care successfully transition to adulthood. I have spent my career as a social worker (15 years!), working with children and families who need help in healing, even though the task often seems giant and the hurt is incredible. Seeing a child get the chance for a better life makes the challenges seem small and the hard work well-worth it. You can connect with me on facebook or twitter.

One of the most powerful teaching tools I have encountered in providing services to youth has been listening to their experiences and learning from their journeys.  Nothing is as impactful as hearing former foster youth recount their stories from foster care and the incredible lengths they’ve gone to overcome their personal hardships.  

Many times, the emotions evident in stories shared have a way of touching the heart and bringing tears to your eyes.  For me as a parent, it often reminds me of how protective I am of my own child, and how hard it is to hear of a child who has had to experience unnecessary trauma. 

I encourage everyone providing direct services or care to foster youth to come experience first-hand the power that story-telling has in shaping the work we do with foster youth.  

We have two events coming up in the next couple of months in Fresno where you can hear directly from emancipated foster youth, as well as experts in the field of foster youth transitions to adulthood. Former foster youth will conduct panels and recount their stories, helping us to more clearly see the obstacles they have faced related to obtaining higher education and becoming independent.  Each event will explore the need for ongoing support into adulthood and the importance of permanency for foster youth.

Beyond Surviving to Thriving  

The first event, “Beyond Surviving to Thriving:  FosteringConnections to Success – AB12” will be held at the University Square Hotel, April 27, 2012, from 8 am to 4:45 pm. This 13th annual Child Welfare Symposium is sponsored by California State University, Fresno’s Title IV-E Child Welfare Program, and Department of Social Work Education. There is a $75 registration fee, and a $10 fee if CEU credit is desired.

Keynote speakers include Nan Henderson, who will discuss resiliency and positive youth development; Mark Courtney, affiliate scholar from the University of Chicago, discussing his work surrounding the adult functioning of former foster children;  and Angie Schwartz, director of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, to speak on AB12 legislation.  Visit the CSU Fresno Social Work website for additional information.  

Permanency for Older Youth

The second event is hosted by Aspiranet, in partnership with the California Department of Social Services, and will be held at the Wedgewood Wedding & Banquet Center (formerly Grand Occasions) June 21, 2012, from 9 am to 3 pm  This 5th annual youth event, “Partners in Permanency: Walking the Journey Together” will focus on permanency for older youth. Registration is free, with a $25 fee for those interested in earning CEU credit.

Keynote speaker Deborah Gray, clinical social worker and renowned author, will discuss how trauma affects children’s attachment, and share practical methods for parents and professionals to help make the connection with youth. Alfonzo Tucker, a former foster youth and author, will lead a break out session for youth, and share his experience in foster care and how he was able to build support systems on his journey.  Visit www.aspiranettransitions.org or contact Kathy Steele at 559-222-4969 for further information.

Please join us at one or both of these events.  If you do plan on attending, be sure to let us know on facebook and recommend the event to your colleagues and friends. 

These courageous youth are models to us all. They show us that there is hope in some of the darkest places, and we can accomplish so much when we dig deep. 

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