Proposal: Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA)

Name of Nonprofit Organization:  Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA)

Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA), is a grassroots organization and has only a small operating budget. Most of the work they do is on a volunteer basis, and the majority of their funds go to support program costs to empower foster youth to connect to their peers and share personal stories to raise awareness and advocate for foster youth. FFCA has an all-volunteer Board of Directors, and a Statewide Youth Leadership Board of current and former foster youth.

My name:  Leslie Dickson

Short Project Description (50 words):

FFCA is bringing 20 foster youth from around the state to Juneau in March, 2016 to learn about civic engagement and share their stories and connect with one another for support.  The funds requested would assist with their travel costs to this valuable training.

The Big Why (300 words):

My mother was raised in foster care.  Thankfully, she had a great foster family that still embrace her (and me) as “real” family.  Unfortunately, she is a minority of foster youth who “age out” this way.  Many are released to nowhere/nothing and have very few resources.  I am particularly interested in helping these older teens “transition” into independent life with as few hiccups and as much support as we can provide them.  There are currently 2,800 children in foster care in Alaska. That’s more than 1% of Alaska’s overall child population. This is a record number and is only expected to increase.

Foster youth are faced with much adversity and many circumstances beyond their control. Unlike most children, they do not have family to turn to in times of need, and they rely solely on the generosity of the state, which in turn does not strive to meet more than their minimum basic needs. Foster youth are often forgotten and given no voice when it comes to policies that directly affect them. FFCA affords foster youth the opportunity to give constructive feedback to the system. Over the last 12 years, FFCA has  empowered foster youth to promote improvements to child welfare, raise awareness in the community, and increase services to youth aging out of foster care.

Foster youth want nothing more than to be viewed as normal and fit in among their peers. FFCA gives foster youth that opportunity by offering them a statewide network of peer support, a sense of community, and a voice in improving Alaska’s foster care system.

FFCA provides these key services:

  • Peer support
  • Training for child welfare staff and caregivers
  • Advocacy for foster youth

Gary, age 19, who is a member of FFCA described his experience in foster care and with FFCA in a recent letter saying, “I never thought I would end up in foster care. I had a great family, friends, and support system. However, all that changed when my mother got diagnosed with cancer. She was the glue that held my life together. After she passed away, my friends and support system slowly disappeared. My dad could not handle his grief and he turned to drugs. Eventually, I lost him too.

I entered foster care with no family. No friends. No support system. Within the first six months of my six years in foster care, I noticed systematic flaws within our foster care system. My independent living worker referred me to Facing Foster Care in Alaska (FFCA) so I could provide constructive criticism to improve foster care for myself and for those who may need it in the future.

FFCA has improved my life in so many ways. Through the quarterly leadership retreats, I learned valuable skills such as public speaking, strategic sharing, and how to facilitate a conversation that will help me for the rest of my life. I was also able to connect with my fellow peers from all over the state and listen to their stories. Eventually, I had a network of friends in foster care all over the state.

The Bottom Line (Budget summary and what they’re asking for):

The grant request is for $4000 to assist with travel and lodging expenses to connect 20 foster youth for the civic engagement conference in Juneau.