In 2008, when Jose was released from his nine-month stay in a Pennsylvania residential placement for his auto theft adjudication and returned to Philadelphia, he had a 1 in 10 chance of graduating from high school, according to the Johns Hopkins study, “Unfulfilled Promise”. Without marketable skills, he was likely to join the ranks of the young unemployed, and his chances of landing in prison as an adult were significantly higher than his chances of landing in a family sustaining career.
"My future is to have a happy family, have a career, be something in life, be a role model, and teach people the right thing." These are the aspirations of one ninth grade foster youth at the Arise Academy Charter High School. Unfortunately, for too many youth in foster care, without the necessary guidance and support from committed and caring adults, dreams often fade into a harsh and bitter struggle for survival.
When my supervisor, Gregory Volz, trained his first group of students to run a youth court in Chester, PA, he asked them “What is the law?” as a simple introductory question. After a long silence, one student hesitatingly raised a hand and said, “The law is… when they indict you for something that you did not do.” Gregg cites this quote in a law review article on youth courts.
Every day in Pennsylvania, child welfare professionals gather and assess information to make critical decisions about the commonwealth’s youngest citizens. Shouldn’t we similarly expect policymakers, who establish the guidelines for child welfare professionals, to base their own legislative proposals on data and experience instead of emotion and conjecture?