YEA! Youth Engagement Advocates

YEA! Youth Engagement Advocates

               

Youth Engagement Advocates, affectionally known as YEA!, is an advisory group created to ensure that youth voice is heard when agencies are developing programs and policies for teens, older youth, and young adults. YEA! meets regularly to discuss and provide input with policy change, program development, review current data, and share their lived experiences at state-wide and national conferences.

YEA! values:

Diversity

We believe in the power of diversity and inclusion. Together we are stronger. Our diverse races, ethnicity, family heritage, geography, gender identity, sexuality, religious beliefs and economic experiences make us uniquely prepared to lead as a collective. All voices are essential, irreplaceable, valuable and matter to YEA!

Expertise

We value and uplift the importance of lived experience. Everyone is an expert in their own story. Together our combined histories and experience of the foster care system make us stronger and wiser.

Continuous Learning

We believe in the power of taking chances and making mistakes. Sometimes failure leads to the biggest success. Together we are committed to gaining new awareness and skills through equitable education, empathy, remaining open-minded and a commitment to finding learnings and lessons in every opportunity.

Supportive Relationships

We support and uplift one another in our journeys. We acknowledge the role and impact we can have in one another’s life. Together we stand as a community of advocates and leaders who commit to holding up and holding each other accountable, as we progress towards personal development and systemic change.

YEA! Members

  • Commit to service
  • Join monthly Council calls
  • Create change
  • Grow as leaders

“We are committed to uplifting youth voice, building equitable change and increasing awareness in the foster care system!”

Key Roles & Responsibilities of YEA! Council Members

Members are ages 14 to 25, who are dedicated to advocating on behalf of youth in foster care.

YEA! meets monthly for workshops, peer networking and advocacy planning.

Agency collaboration provides opportunities for open discussions, research, problem solving and program improvement.

With training and development, YEA! members are supported to serve as leaders of the council. Strategic Sharing, Advocacy 101, Leadership, Communication Skills/Speaking with the Media. They speak at local, state, and nationwide events to advocate for their peers and system change.

Youth Voice Platform

SCDSS has partnered with YEA! to establish a youth voice platform. SCDSS believes that when youth are empowered, they feel confident and capable to become active contributors and collaborators to improve the child welfare system.

This partnership honors youth voice, includes youth in decision-making processes, and supports youth advocacy to raise awareness about what's best for young people.

Panels, focus groups, and listening sessions are conducted on various topics in order for the youth to share their experiences and advocate for change to make the community a better place for both young people and adults alike.


YEA! has been part of many program and policy developments such as:

  • Better Together Campaign
  • Strategic Planning of Guiding Principle Standards (GPS)
  • Court Youth Engagement
  • Extension of Foster Care
  • Supervised Independent Living
  • Transition Planning
  • Older youth transition support resource guide
  • Division X Stimulus Program
  • Financial Literacy Training series
  • FactForward: Health Reproduction
  • Affinitia: LGBTQIA+
  • Statewide Transition Service Support Program
  • Sibling Connections
  • And Many More…

How can Chafee/ETV Program help me succeed?

I am a former foster youth, what services can you provide me?

If you were a former foster youth at or after the age 14, please go to your local DSS county office and request a “Chafee/ETV after-care services”. The county will assign a DSS case manager to discuss your current situation and help you identify needed services. Chafee funded services are available until you reach age 21. Chafee funded services include academic support, transportation support, employment support and housing support. ETV funded services support post-secondary education or vocational programs and are available for five years or until you reach age 26 (whichever comes first). Please review the Chafee and ETV booklet for more information and email independentliving@dss.sc.gov.


I want to be independent, but what does that look like?

Deciding what to do within the next five years can be overwhelming! But don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Your DSS Case manager and your DSS Transition Specialist will help guide you with identifying your goals and outlining the steps needed to achieve those goals. Your DSS Transition Specialist will help connect you with community resources to also help you achieve your goals. You will be able to share your thoughts and concerns at your Transition Plan Meeting.

 
I am a senior in high school and I want to celebrate this achievement, but I worry about the extra costs.

We love celebrating our seniors! Chafee Program provides funding for Senior Prom Night to help pay for pictures, dress, suit, and grooming needs (such has hair and nail appointment). Chafee Program provides funds for graduation invitations, pictures, senior ring, yearbook, and senior trip. Chafee/ETV program also celebrates our graduating youths at the Annual Graduation Luncheon!

Not everyone is able to receive a diploma in a traditional manner, and the Chafee Program provides funding to assist with completing GED program. Any completion of a secondary program earns a graduate monetary award and an invitation to the Annual Graduation Luncheon.

 
I want to go to college, but I worry that I cannot afford it.

We want you to have options for school and encourage you to prepare for the ACT/SAT; and don’t worry, Chafee program provides funding for test prep and the actual test. If you need further assistance to raise your grades, then Chafee program provides funding for tutoring. Your DSS case manager and DSS ETV Specialist will help you identify a program that fits your needs and interests.

ETV awards up to $5,000 per year for five (5) years or until age 26 (whichever comes first) to support going to college, technical program, and/or vocational program. ETV awards includes funds to support institution expenses, such as tuition, room/board, books, and fees. The ETV award also provides funds for supportive expenses such as rent (for off campus), transportation, and commuter meals. Please review the ETV application for more information.


I want to be smart with my money, what do you suggest?

The Chafee programs offers financial literacy courses to help you gain a basic understanding of how to save, budget and manage money. The personalized course helps you develop the skills and knowledge to make responsible financial decisions to achieve financial stability. This course is needed in order to receive certain Chafee Housing funds. For more information email independentliving@dss.sc.gov.


I am ready to earn my own money, what can you do to help me get a job?

Gaining employment is an essential step towards financial independence. The Chafee program coordinates with several community partners to learn resume building, completing applications, interview skills, and work ethics. Your DSS case manager will be able to provide local resources. The Chafee program provides funding for interview clothing to help you feel confident during the interview. The Chafee program also provides funding for uniforms and footwear to maintain the job and transportation funds to get to work.


I have saved enough money for my own car, what can you do to help me get a car?

The Chafee program provides funds for car insurance and vehicle repairs. The car title and insurance policy must be in your name. Check out the SCFPA On the Road Again program, where former foster youth (ages 18-21) are awarded donated vehicles if they are either in school or working.


I think I am ready to get my own apartment, what can you do to help me?

To qualify for assistance, you must be employed and earning sufficient income to maintain the residence prior to Chafee releasing housing assistance funds. Chafee program provides funding for furniture, rental application, rental deposit, utilities deposit, housing essential bundle and rental assistance for six (6) months. You will need to provide lease agreement and proof of income. You will also need to complete financial literacy workshop with the Chafee department. Please keep in mind that this a one-time award and you will be required to update your proof of employment and budget sheet after three months to make sure you are still headed on the right path. 


I thought I had it all figured out, but now I am couch-hopping or experiencing homelessness; what can you do to help me?

Please go to your local DSS county office and seek assistance.  You can also email independentliving@dss.sc.gov for assistance. If you have aged out of foster care at age 18 and have not reached your 21st birthday, you can request to be placed in a DSS provider (foster home, transition home, or group home). Your situation will be assessed, and if placement is available, you will be asked to sign a Voluntary Placement Agreement. If a DSS placement is not available, then community resources will be utilized to find safe housing.


I went to a doctor’s visit and learned I don’t have medical insurance anymore; what happened to my insurance?

Medicaid is available for former foster youth until age 26. It is your responsibility to update your contact information and renew your application every year. You can contact SC Medicaid at (888) 549-0820 for activating your insurance coverage. Please remember to state that you were a former foster youth.


I am a former foster youth and I want to share my story, what is the best way to share my experiences?

The Chafee/ETV Program is recruiting for YEA! State Youth Council. The Chafee/ETV Program would love to hear from the very youth we strive to serve. Please email us at IndependentLiving@dss.sc.gov  if you are interested in joining the youth council or you simply just want to share your thoughts.

At ages 17, 19, and 21 you will be asked to complete a survey that discusses your transition into adulthood experiences. The results of the survey are used to improve program development for all transitioning youth.

 


Child Welfare Services Transformation

Best Outcomes for Children and Families

Do you have a complaint regarding services being provided to a child by a state agency? Please submit your complaint by phone (1-800-206-1957) or an electronic submission form here with the South Carolina Department of Children's Advocacy.