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What Happens to People of Color as They Age Out of Foster Care?

The subject will be explored at a Pitt institute on July 10; panel discussion will include local young people recently out of foster care

In Allegheny County, about 200 young people “age out” of the child welfare system each year. Too old for foster care but too young to be independent, this group of 18 to 21 year olds represents a sometimes-forgotten population. Does the situation become more difficult for young people of color?

Educators, community leaders, and social workers will explore this issue at a free all-day session July 10 titled “Aging Out of the Child Welfare System: Experiences, Outcomes, and Interventions for Youth of Color.” It is the second in a series of summer institutes hosted by the University of Pittsburgh Center on Race and Social Problems (CRSP); it will be held in the School of Social Work Conference Center, 20th floor, Cathedral of Learning, 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland.

Speakers include national experts on the subject, including two professors in Pitt’s School of Social Work who have examined the issue. Presentations and discussions will focus on the educational, community, and mental health resources that promote a successful transition from the child welfare system for people of color as will as suggestions for specific actions by families and governing bodies that optimize young adults’ chances for success.
The featured speakers and titles of their presentations follow.
9:10 a.m.
“System Change That Works for Children of All Races”
David Sanders
, executive vice president of systems improvement at Casey Family Programs, a national foundation whose mission is to improve and ultimately eliminate the need for foster care. Prior to that position, Sanders oversaw operations for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, which included a staff of approximately 6,000 serving 22,000 children. During Sanders’ tenure, the foster care population dropped and its safety and stability improved. Sanders chairs the Philadelphia Child Welfare Review Panel, which comprises national experts conducting a comprehensive review of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services.
10:15 a.m.
“Disporportionality in Education and Employment Outcomes of Adult Foster Care Alumni”
Marian Harris
, associate professor of social work at the University of Washington, Tacoma. A national expert on racial inequities in the child welfare system, Harris has published papers on the issues surrounding foster care, including substance abuse, attachment issues, parental stress, child maltreatment, family structure, and the outcomes of youth who have exited the system. She is an adjunct faculty member at several universities and works as a consultant and advisor to many national agencies and committees.
11:20 a.m.
“Youth Aging Out of Foster Care: Developmental Outcomes and Intervention Approaches”
Paul Toro
, professor of psychology at Wayne State University. The author of a wide range of studies on homelessness, Toro has evaluated interventions, assessed mental and substance abuse disorders, collected data from several different countries, and followed large homeless samples in longitudinal studies. Recently, he has researched ways to assist young people aging out of the system who are at risk for becoming homeless.
1 p.m.
“Aging Out of the Child Welfare System in Allegheny County: Race, Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Justice System Involvement”
Jeffrey Shook and Sara Goodkind
, assistant professors in Pitt’s School of Social Work. Shook’s research focuses on the transfer of juveniles to the adult criminal justice system as well as young people aging out of the child welfare system. He advocates for ending the practice of sentencing juveniles to life in prison without parole. Much of Goodkind’s work has centered on improving programs for girls in the juvenile justice system. She also is interested in how gender, race, ethnicity, class, and sexuality shape the services offered. 
2 p.m.
Pittsburgh Youth Panel
Panelists include a program coordinator from the Allegheny County Department of Human Services and six young people who are or recently were part of the foster care system.
3:15 p.m.
Group Discussion: Implications for Pittsburgh


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