Current and former foster youth involved in youth-led advocacy organizations are taking action to push back on policy proposals made by President Donald Trump and Congress that they consider harmful, particularly the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
Many of these advocacy organizations are state and city-based groups affiliated with Foster Youth in Action (FYA), a national organization dedicated to advocacy led by youth who spent time in the foster care system.
On Wednesday, FYA held a webinar called “Trump is President: Now What?” which featured several youth leaders discussing their aims, while adult experts shared advice on how to advocate effectively.
Two of the youth leaders on the webinar discussed the importance of health care for former foster youth and how they both benefited from a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, that guaranteed Medicaid to all former foster youth until the age of 26.
Georgia Empowerment, a group featured on the webinar, advocated for Medicaid access for former foster youth until age 21 in Georgia, before the ACA provided more comprehensive access. Now they and other groups find themselves fighting to keep the benefits, by arranging meetings with legislators and campaigning via social media.
Nylee Inniss, a youth leader with Georgia Empowerment, said she has relied on that coverage for medical and mental health services.
“Being a former foster youth I have experienced trauma, and trauma does not go away in the blink of an eye,” Inniss said. “My insurance assures me access to therapeutic services and wellbeing assistance, and that assistance is what helped me to be a thriving young person.”
Anthony Simpson, a youth advocate with Youth Fostering Change in Philadelphia, shared a similar sentiment.
“At the end of the day a youth isn’t going to feel empowered if they can’t even go to their medical office for a checkup because their Medicaid has been cut off,” Simpson said.
Jenny Wood, the executive vice president of the Liberty Hill Foundation and who has years of experience in Washington D.C. politics and child welfare policy, urged the young advocates to meet with staff members at district offices for legislators, speak up at town hall meetings and share their experiences with news reporters and on social media.
Wood said youth advocates should push to get the right people in key Cabinet positions that administer child welfare policies and also work to inform recently appointed Cabinet members on problems and solutions within the child welfare system.
John Kelly, a senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change, also spoke on the webinar about current happenings in child welfare and juvenile justice policy.
To watch the webinar, click HERE.