This Month – Independent Living Programs
Selfless Love Foundation is proud to offer youth with lived experience a safe space to connect, express themselves, and feel heard. Our youth engagement initiative, One Voice Impact, further elevates youth voice by empowering our members to influence policy.
One Voice Impact youth leaders advocated for a review of Independent Living (IL) Services by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), the research arm of the Florida Legislature. The study reported the following areas of concern: lack of meaningful performance metrics, high case management caseloads, youth’s lack of knowledge about services, feeling that their voice was not heard, lack of supportive adults, lack of life skills training, and lack of knowledge about the IL services amongst case managers.
OPPAGA provided 19 recommendations for the Department of Children and Families and the Legislature to consider. While there is a lot to unpack in this very thorough report, the One Voice Impact youth leaders developed their top five policy priorities from the report.
1) Consistency in IL services – Youth in the Extended Foster Care program receive financial assistance along with case management services. Youth want the same level of services in the Post-Secondary Education program.
2) Pathway to Self-Sufficiency – Youth want an assessment that evaluates if they are on track to become self-sufficient when services end.
3) Permanent Connections – Youth leaving care without obtaining legal permanency want the child welfare system to ensure that they have a supportive adult to guide them through the transition to adulthood.
4) Competency for IL Specialists – Youth want the case managers that they work with to be specifically trained to serve this population of young people.
5) Implementation of a Standardized Life Skills Curriculum – Youth want a consistent, comprehensive, evidence-informed life skills curriculum implemented across the state.
While our One Voice Impact youth leaders understand that not all the recommendations made in the OPPAGA report will be addressed in one legislative session, they do hope that this research will serve as a guidebook to improve IL services in our state.
We now have the evidence behind us to drive change. Let’s not miss the opportunity to get it right.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
Dr. Elizabeth Wynter is a rainmaker for transition-age foster youth. Wynter’s work in this arena has helped launch a statewide youth voice movement, drive policy and practice improvements, and better equip system professionals and foster youth with tools and knowledge to achieve self-sufficiency.
Wynter believes that foster youth should be valued as organizational assets. By using a pluralistic approach in which youth and systems professionals share control in decision-making, program planning and implementation, and advocacy, a dual impact of improved outcomes for transitioning youth and a more responsive child welfare system can be realized.
As the Executive Director of the Selfless Love Foundation, Wynter has led the state of Florida in making youth engagement a centerpiece of conversation. With over two decades of child welfare experience, an unwavering commitment to transforming the system, and an ineffable capacity to challenge the status quo, Wynter is a catalyst for change.
Selfless Love Foundation’s youth voice initiative, One Voice IMPACT (OVI), provides current and former foster youth opportunities to develop skills for leadership and life, advocate for changes to policy and join a network of youth leaders across the state of Florida.