Friday, December 21, 2007

Tips on creating a chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America

2007 Thanksgiving dinner at the Capitol
Photo by Gediyon Kifle

As co-founder of the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, I've been asked by many people how to start a chapter in their area...

Misty Stenslie, Deputy Director of FCAA national, is the best resource for starting a chapter in your area.

Please follow this link to find out more about FCAA chapter charter, policies and procedures.

The Ohio chapter is available as a resource to you as well...

Here are some things that have worked for us:

1. Get in touch with foster care youth:
- Seek out local foster care youth advisory boards
- Find out what matters to them
- Develop presentations to smooth their transition to adulthood
- Partner with child welfare professionals to improve services to young people in/from foster care

Foster care youth of today are the alumni of tomorrow. They have fresh insights and passion to offer! And we older alumni can use our experience and expertise to support their current and future success!

2. Find your allies, such as:
- Local/statewide foster parent organizations
- Local/statewide independent living coordinators
- Social work professors at local universities
- Support groups for kinship caregivers

Many people within the child welfare field long to make a more powerful impact when it comes to foster care. Attend their meetings and tell them who you are and what FCAA is all about. The people who care most about our mission will be drawn to you!

3. Read the news:
- Find out who is speaking out about foster care
- Find out which journalists are interested in writing about foster care issues
- Research the local radio stations for future promotion opportunities

When we present ourselves as being knowledgeable about what's going on locally, statewide and nationally regarding foster care, this builds our credibility with others.

4. Share your voice:
- At local, statewide and national conferences
- In op-eds and interviews
- During brainstorming sessions about independent living classes and aftercare
- In discussions about foster care policy

'Nothing about us without us' is FCAA's motto.

When 'experts' hold discussions about changing child welfare policies, procedures and/or legislation, we should be there. And when youth entrust us with issues that are important to them, we should be their champions in any arena in which they may not be present.

As we continue to share our voice, other alumni will come along and stand beside us. This will give power to our message, because we will be sharing collectively. Opportunities will arise for us to empower them to take center stage, while we sit in the audience and cheer them on!

5. Never give up:
- There will be disagreements
- Sometimes you will feel discouraged
- You won't see the outcome of your efforts right away
- "It is possible to move a mountain by carrying away small stones"

What we are involved in is a foster care movement. Like the civil rights movement or the women's rights movement.

Movements don't take a day or a week or a month or a year. They can take a lifetime. And it is worth it, because members of Foster Care Alumni of America are determined to leave a legacy!

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