We are working to drastically change the systemic challenges that youth who are or have been involved with the foster care system experience.

Girl sitting on skateboard.

Our Approach

On any given day in the United States, there are more than 400,000 children in the foster care system—and more than 82,000 are youth older than 14. These young people, specifically transition-age youth of color, are more likely to experience disparate treatment and outcomes.  It is our belief that, with the right combination of innovation, authentic engagement of youth, and community collaboration, we can start to change that.

Learn more about our approach to the work here.

Continue scrolling for more detail on our specific areas of work.

Cultivate Youth Power

By recruiting three cohorts of Youth Ambassadors, selected in Los Angeles, CA; New York, NY; and Atlanta, GA (each of the cities in which we are conducting our work) to function as our advisors, we will ensure that our work is both authentically youth-serving AND empowers the young people to develop important leadership skills. Each cohort will be deeply involved in all steps of the work and centered in all parts of the co-design process. Their lived experience is the most important resource we have to authentically proceed in this work.

Identify Structural Challenges

Through a community analysis, an adaptation of CSSP’s Institutional Analysis methodology, we are seeking to understand how communities are able to affirm, include, and support youth transitioning out of foster care. Investigative teams will apply qualitative tools and analysis to understand how communities are organized to support youth aging out of the child welfare system. This includes examining current concepts, theories, policies, initiatives, and accountability mechanisms that serve to create the current conditions youth are experiencing and provide the opportunities for improvement.

Advance Anti-Racist Policies

Working directly with the Ambassadors, we will co-design a national anti-racist and intersectional policy agenda. This agenda with center youth experiences and prioritize the needs of youth currently and previously involved with the child welfare system. Reflecting the goals and priorities of the Ambassadors, the agenda will include policies beyond child welfare as youth are impacted by multiple systems. The Ambassadors will also work in their state and local communities to advance anti-racist and international policies.

Disrupt Harmful Narratives

To change the existing negative narrative—or damage imagery—about youth who are or who have been involved in the foster care system, we will co-design a national narrative change campaign that will identify, dismantle, and, ultimately, replace harmful damage imagery with a narrative that affirms the valuable and valued lived experience of youth who have been touched by the foster care system.

How It Started

Creating Actionable and Real Solutions (CARES) is an initiative of the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). CSSP is a national, non-profit policy organization that connects community action, public system reform, and policy change to create a fair and just society in which all children and families thrive. Learn more about CSSP here.


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