BROOMFIELD, Colo. — The Selfless Love Foundation, a nonprofit that helps children in foster care held a national foster care think tank in Broomfield on Thursday to discuss ways to help kids aging out of foster care.
“Every year in the U.S. 20,000 kids age out of foster care,” Selfless Love Foundation Founder and CEO Ashley Brown said. “It's no surprise when children aged out of foster care with nobody in their life to support them there’s alarming rates of homelessness, lack of employment, involvement in the justice system. So that's why having events like we have today is so important. Coming together to improve outcomes for youth that are impacted by care, create best policies, and coming up with solutions like providing permanent connections for youth before they aged out of foster care.”
Brown said child welfare experts and youth that were previously in foster care from 28 states attended the two-day think tank.
“So many times youth, who are the closest to the problem, are the furthest away from the solution,” Brown said.
During one think tank session, Lynn Johnson, the former assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families and current president of All In Fostering Futures spoke about the need for urgency when addressing issues surrounding foster care.
“I've been in the social work world for over 40 years…we have done all these panels for the last 40-plus years, maybe longer than that. But it's time now that we quit talking, and we run — we run to make a difference and change the culture in this country,” Johnson said. “When I was working in human service department, 70% of the time my staff spent was on paperwork, the 30% was looking kids in the eyes, seeing their faces, not their cases. I think we need to work on regulation, streamline the system and care about the kids more, spend more time with those kids.”
Maddie Noyce Lang, a former foster youth in Colorado also shared their experiences during the think tank.
“My foster agency was very, very toxic to me. They didn't like that I was not Christian, that I was LGBTQ, that I wasn't conforming to their standards. And they kind of labeled me like a delinquent child who didn't want to listen,” Lang said.
Lang was diagnosed with cancer while in foster care but met their adoptive parents through a respite placement.
“It took about two months of fighting, and they were able to finally get me in their home. That fighting was basically my agency and my former foster mom, saying I was a delinquent child, and I need to go to a group home,” Lang said. “This whole conference is about permanency about keeping those foster kids in a permanent home with permanent connections. So the main fight is to give families resources before taking kids out of their homes. But if they do have to go into foster care, it's trying to keep them in one home and making sure to give them the resources that they need.
Lang said October is Foster Youth Voices Month and she hopes this month is filled with discussions about ways to improve the foster care system and provide more resources to those who are aging out of the system.