Mar 24, 2015
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This article was originally posted by the Richmond Police Department on RPD’s Facebook page:

Could you survive at 18 alone?

Three years ago, while working as a detective in the Youth Services Division, Officer Delon Jackson had an idea. He wanted to create a day “just for foster care youth” to provide resources and workshops to promote self esteem, and provide a roadmap to the future.

More than that, he wanted the youth to design that experience. He put together a planning team and together they interviewed over three dozen youth in focus groups to design the conference.

The 3rd Annual Foster Care Youth Conference was held Saturday at LaVonya De Jean Middle School. The conference was planned by the Richmond Police Department Youth Services Division, Contra Costa County, Solano and Alameda counties, ILSP, ILP, First Place for Youth, the Foster A Dream Program, The Richmond Community Foundation, and other partners. The conference hosted over 180 youth and provided them with information and workshops on housing, employment, health/wellness, education, and social justice.

Special focus was given to empowering the youth with a roadmap for success beyond the system.

The event kicked off with a special panel discussion moderated by Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus, to discuss foster care concerns and experiences from individuals who were formerly in the foster care system.

Workshops included free hairstyling and barbering provided by the Marinello School of Beauty, a sports and fitness clinic, education, employment and social justice classes, information about healthy relationships, and money management, spoken word and more.

Local sponsors donated their time, resources and even delicious specialty “chicken and waffles” cupcakes to make this a fun day for all!

RPD Command and youth services staff engaged in some intense, honest, heart wrenching and courageous discussions between young adults recently transitioned out of foster care, with allies, advocates and policy-makers. Highlighted in the conversations was the need for more resources for transitional youth, cultural competency training, and support for caring adult mentors
The keynote speaker for the conference was U.S. State Department musical ambassador, Toni Blackman. Ms. Blackman works under their Cultural Diplomacy Program and travels the country promoting social responsibility.

With a large percentage of foster youth traveling from one system to another, this kind of support is an important step to addressing some of the root causes of issues that these brave young people face, and supporting their advocates.