For Immediate Release - October 04, 2016

AG’s Office and the Boston Casa Program to Launch Pilot Program to Support Youth Aging out of Foster Care

BOSTON – Recognizing the unique needs of teens aging out of the foster care system, Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office and the Boston Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, in partnership with the Suffolk County Juvenile Court, are launching a pilot program to provide more concerted advocacy for adolescent foster youth in Massachusetts.

The pilot program, made possible by a $40,000 grant from the AG’s Office, will support the special advocates serving youth over the age of 16 who are transitioning from foster care to adulthood, and specially train advocates to empower foster youth to advocate for themselves.

“The transition to adulthood is tough for all teenagers, and these issues are only magnified for youth in the foster care system,” said AG Healey. “Most people cannot imagine what it would be like to be sixteen years old and not have someone they can turn to for guidance and support, but that is often the case for youth aging out of foster care. Our foster youth deserve powerful advocates to support them and make sure they have what they need to succeed and to thrive. Through this program, we will support more volunteers in our communities to take on this vitally important role.”

The AG’s Office is working closely with Boston CASA and the Suffolk Juvenile Court in implementing this program.

“The partnership among Boston CASA, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Suffolk County Juvenile Court has been established because of passionate leaders taking a stand together to empower our community’s most vulnerable,” said Charles Lerner, Executive Director of Boston CASA. “Every person needs at least one consistent and zealous advocate in their corner to realize their potential. That’s exactly what we are intent on giving these youths.”

“There is no time more critical for a young person than that period when they are going from teenager to young adult. Most kids have parents or relatives to guide them along a path to successful independence, but the kids in the foster care system often do not,” said Terry Craven, First Justice of the Suffolk County Juvenile Court. “There is no greater gift a person can give to a young adult than that of being a strong advocate, good listener, trusted advisor and role model. Through this partnership, these youths will have someone to call to answer the simple question: 'What can I do next?'”

The Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth has also committed to provide funding and expertise to this program to make sure that the special advocates have the knowledge and tools they need to advocate for LGBTQ foster youth.

“Research shows that LGBTQ youth are disproportionately likely to be in foster care and are at increased risk for homelessness, school bullying, and justice system involvement. Many of these youth have experienced family rejection or victimization in connection with their sexual orientation or gender identity, and it can be challenging for them to find resources that meet their unique needs while affirming their identities,” said Hannah Hussey, Director of Policy and Research for the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. “By partnering with the Attorney General’s Office, Boston CASA, and the Suffolk Juvenile Court, we aim to pilot new ways to engage, support, and celebrate LGBTQ young people as they transition to adulthood.”

This program was spearheaded by the Attorney General’s Child and Youth Protection Unit, which is focused on improving opportunities and outcomes for children and youth across the board. The unit engages experts in various fields relating to children to inform initiatives, pursue public-private partnerships, and work closely with nonprofit organizations, state and local agencies and courts to improve delivery of care and services for this vulnerable population.