Foster Youth Writing and Education Project
L.A. Youth, the newspaper by and about teens, has had tremendous success with its special project giving youth in the foster care and probation systems an opportunity to tell their personal stories. Through the Foster Youth Writing and Education Project, which began in 2003, L.A. Youth has been publishing stories written by foster and probation youth from Los Angeles County. This project gives the youth an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and a forum to voice their concerns, while also informing others about the system and the challenges they face.
• Frequently Asked Questions about this project.
What is foster care?
There are about 500,000 young people in foster care across the country. California has more than 70,000 children in the foster care system, the most of any state. About 20,000 of the state’s foster youth live in Los Angeles County.
Children are removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system for a variety of reasons. In many cases, the court determines they’ve been abused or neglected by their parents or their parents cannot properly care for them because of poverty, death, illness or other circumstances beyond their control. Some older children go into foster care when their families feel they can no longer supervise them.
Once they enter the foster care system, they live with a relative, a foster family or in a group home, which usually houses older foster youth. Some children eventually are adopted or return home, but others spend years in the system. Being taken out of their home, regardless of the reason, can be a wrenching experience for these children. They face instability as they move from placement to placement, uncertainty about how long they will be in foster care, and difficulties adjusting to new surroundings and new people.
Each year in California, between 4,000 and 5,000 foster youth emancipate (age out of the system) at age 18. To get ready, they take independent living classes where they learn skills such as how to make a budget, get a job and find housing. Still, many are not prepared to live on their own when they age out, but lack a permanent family or other caring adults to help them through the transition into adulthood. Nearly half of foster youth emancipate without completing high school. Within four years after emancipation, up to 25 percent become homeless and one in five are in jail, according to statistics.
A new state law allows foster youth to remain in the system and receive services and support until age 20, giving them a greater chance at success. The law, called AB 12 or the California Fostering Connections to Success Act, went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012. More info is at www.after18ca.org.
For a resource page listing websites about foster care, click here.
L.A. Youth’s Foster Youth Writing Project gives foster and probation youth an opportunity to reflect on and share their experiences through writing. It also develops writing, job and social skills. Our goal is to help improve the public’s understanding of the system. We hope these stories bring attention to the difficulties foster youth face that are often not reported by the mainstream media or fully addressed by the foster care system.
This project is made possible by The California Endowment, Northrop Grumman, the Los Angeles Times, Stuart Foundation, Entertainment Industry Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Dwight Stuart Youth Fund, Leonard Green Foundation and others.
It is modeled after Represent, a nationwide magazine written by and for young people in foster care. Represent, published by Youth Communication in New York City, was founded in 1993 and has a paid circulation of 10,000 with subscribers in 46 states, including California. Through a special partnership, Represent is publishing stories written by Los Angeles County foster youth, giving them an audience of foster children across the country who can identify with their experiences and concerns.