Mental health

Advocating for Mental Health for Youth in Foster Care

Advocating for Mental Health FFY

Three Lived Experience (LEx) Leaders advocated for improved mental health services for youth involved in foster care and/or juvenile justice at a Policy Lab last month. 

The lab brought together two parent advocates, one grandparent advocate and nine state teams. They joined LEx Leaders Rimy Morris (age 26, IN), Aliyah Zeien (age 27, LA), and Addie Anderson (age 24, AZ).

Above: Lived Experience Leaders Rimy Morris (age 26, Indiana), Aliyah Zeien (age 27, Louisiana), and Addie Anderson (age 24, Arizona)

LEx Leaders opened the session reflecting on the urgent and critical need for children and youth-focused mental and behavioral health supports, especially for those involved in child welfare or juvenile justice. 

“I grew up with a lot of peers who will never get to see the things or the stages that I’ve seen,” said Aliyah, who along with  Rimy serves on the National Foster Care Youth & Alumni Policy Council, a group managed by FosterClub and Foster Care Alumni of America with support from Casey Family Programs. “Many are dead, many are in jail, or just missing… because they feel like life on the street was better than the injustices that they were seeing every day.”

Young people in and from foster care rarely get to make decisions about their mental and behavioral health at the individual or systemic levels. This has serious costs. Young people must be involved in their own health decisions and in improving the system for their peers. 

“We often say kids are falling through the cracks;” said Rimy, directing audience members to the Council’s 20th priority: Decriminalize Being in Foster Care. “Kids aren’t falling through cracks anymore; those are now craters. . . Kids just like me. Kids just like Aliyah. Kids just like Addie.” 

Health Management Associates hosted the lab in partnership with the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, National Association of Medicaid Directors, and Child Welfare League of America, American Public Human Services Association, with support from Annie E. Casey Foundation and Casey Family Programs. After opening the event, LEx Leaders provided guidance to state teams for partnering with advocates with lived experience to build much needed care.We are excited to continue working with state teams toward improved support for children and youth. 

As Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Fellow Addie said at the lab, “Let us not waste our time. Let us make a change for this generation. We really need it.”

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