Youth from around the state participate in youth leadership training

Seven young people from Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Story City and Marshalltown participated in a leadership workshop hosted by Youth Policy Institute of Iowa (YPII) in partnership with Achieving Maximum Potential (AMP) this past December in Des Moines.  The youth, all members of AMP, Iowa’s State Foster Care Youth Council, have had direct experience with Iowa’s foster care system and came to the workshop to build their messaging and leadership skills. The workshop focused on preparing these young people to present issues from their 2017 AMP legislative agenda to state legislators and policy makers at AMP Day on the Hill January 23, 2017.

Once a year AMP members are given an opportunity to go to the Iowa State Capitol building and speak with their legislators about issues that they find most important for youth in foster care. These youth meet several times throughout the year to develop and prepare their legislative agenda. The leadership training gave youth a chance to refine their thoughts and ideas, and put them into a succinct, impactful presentation worthy of legislative attention.

Workshop participants chose to focus on three issues that they believe directly affect youth in foster care. Youth want Iowa to adopt Erin’s Law requiring public schools to implement a prevention-oriented child sexual abuse program. Based on their experiences in foster care, AMP youth believe that additional funding is needed for Anti-Bullying legislation to keep youth in foster care safe in public schools. Youth also discussed a need for limits for DHS worker caseloads. One youth stated that he was rarely able to contact his worker because she was responsible for so many youth. Working in small groups, youth learned how to combine some of their personal experiences in foster care with the data they had collected about each topic and developed it into a brief, polished “elevator speech.” Participants took what they learned at the YPII training and applied it to their presentation on the Hill.

When asked what part of the workshop they found most beneficial, Dalani, youth AMP member, responded,
“Taking the time to write the speech and getting together to research. I just really liked the whole thing.”

AMP members left the workshop having learned:

The YPII training helped provide these youth the leadership skills they need to be successful communicators, which will allow them an opportunity to facilitate change in the child welfare system. YPII plans to collaborate with AMP on similar leadership-building workshops in 2017 for youth who have experienced foster care. Watch for more information at www.ypii.org in the coming months.