Rolla, Mo. – Forty-Second Circuit Juvenile Division Judge Benjamin Thompson addressed the Missouri Children’s Division Southeast Region 2017 Older Youth Summit on the importance of Older Youth Involvement in Juvenile Court and Transition Planning held on September 27 at Columbia College in Rolla, Missouri.
The Summit was held as part of Missouri’s Older Youth Program, which incorporates the Foster Care and Independence Act of 1999, a federal legislation, which introduced the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program in each state and encompasses philosophy through positive youth development and the distinct permanency needs of adolescents to assist with the successful transition from adolescence to adulthood.
National statistics indicate nearly 30,000 youth emancipate from the foster care system each year when they reach age 18-21. These young people leave without emotional or financial support that families provide. For young people who have left foster care, the immediate struggle for day-to-day survival after leaving care makes planning for a good future difficult.
To safeguard the well-being of youth making this transition, a continuation of support and preparation must begin when the youth enters out-of-home care. The Act enables the Missouri Children’s Division to provide services and financial assistance to help these young adults as they develop the skills and education needed to move successfully into self-sufficiency and independence.
The purpose of the Older Youth Summits is for older youth and community partners to share information and a vision to help youth successfully transition from care.
The Summits provide an opportunity to discuss issues for youth transitioning at the community level, where older youth are exiting and depend on the resources provided where they reside.
The Summits focus on education, employment and job readiness, cross systems collaboration, health and mental health, permanency and life-long connections, with the goal to develop a common vision of where a community is and where they would like to be in helping older youth transition successfully to adulthood.
The 2017 Southeast Region Older Youth Summit was attended by older youth, Children’s Division representatives, juvenile officers and community partners from the 24th, 25th, 32nd, 33rd, 35th, 36th, 37th, and 42nd Judicial Circuits. Other Summit presentations included: “Signs of Safety – Signs of Success” – Noah Rienks, Missouri Children’s Division Specialist; “Financial Options for Post-Secondary Education” – Columbia College; and “Don’t Write a Boring Story” – Casey Wray, Good Samaritan Boys Ranch. A panel of Older Youth also presented on their own personal experiences in Missouri’s Child Welfare System.
Youth in attendance reported they learned a lot from the presentations and community partners, that it was helpful to know other youth share their experiences, and that they “had a blast”.
The Southeast Region Older Youth Program thanks all the presenters, Columbia College for donating the facility and time, and the many community partners throughout the region who donated door prizes for the Older Youth.
If you are a community member wishing to participate in the Older Youth Program, please contact Bobbie Thomas, Children’s Division – Older Youth Transition Specialist, at (573) 238-2624 ext. 238.