Youth Advocacy Team member and Jim Casey Young Fellow, Samanthya Amann, shares her insights on effective case planning

The second goal of the Jim Casey Success Beyond 18 Campaign is to “Fully promote youth engagement in case planning and decision-making for all young people in foster care age 14 and older.” By empowering youth through active engagement in their own case planning, they have increased opportunities of autonomy as they learn how to make decisions for themselves and how they are affected by the outcomes of their own decisions. Adolescent brain development research identifies increased levels of autonomy as a key factor in a young person’s ability to heal from trauma and to maximize the brain’s ability to “rewire” through positive experiences.

This goal isn’t encouraging the young person to have complete control of their case planning, but to be actively engaged. This means the young person is working with a network of supportive adults to learn how to create the best future for themselves. This environment of a supportive network allows the young person the opportunity to learn and make their own decisions, but shows them they don’t have to do it alone, just as their peers who are in intact families have their parents and families as ‘safety nets’ as they emerge into adulthood.

In my home state, I am able to receive extended services through the Iowa Aftercare Services Network (IASN). If I was not given the opportunity to be engaged in my own case planning, I would not be where I am today. As a part of my case plan, I learned not only how to identify goals, create a plan and accomplish the goals, but I also learned to identify my strengths and my opportunities for growth. This was particularly important for me to learn because this was the first time I actually focused on my strengths and what I was good at. Without first focusing on my strengths, I would have never included joining my local youth board in one of my short-term goal lists and definitely would have never made it to where I am today. I had the two components of this second goal of the Success Beyond 18 Campaign –

“I had a supportive network of caring adults and I had active engagement in my own case planning. Empowerment and support made all the difference.”

It is incredibly important that all young people are fully engaged in their own case planning and decision making starting at least by age 14, not only because adolescent brain development research shows this is best practice in meeting the needs of young people in foster care, but because it is the best way to ensure young people in foster care are given a better path and are successful beyond 18.

This opinion editorial was originally written by Amann for use by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative Success Beyond 18 Campaign.

Sam

Samanthya Amann