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Former, Current Foster Youth Sought for Partnership Board

March 10, 2014

Former, Current Foster Youth Sought for Partnership Board
Arizona joins national movement to help youth aging out of foster care

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(March 10, 2014) Each year, more than 700 Arizona young adults mark their 18th birthday in foster care
without a permanent, stable family. Many of these youth find themselves jobless, without a place to live,
transportation or a positive community of support.

A new initiative in Arizona aims to create better outcomes for these young people by getting input from
those who have experienced firsthand the foster care system.

The Arizona Youth Opportunities initiative is seeking a dozen former and current foster youth between the
ages of 16 and 26 for its Arizona Youth Partnership Board. The board will help guide the new initiative.
Besides identifying the greatest needs of youth aging out of foster care, board members will spread the word
to other foster youth about services available to them.

The foster youth initiative is a project of Children’s Action Alliance and funded by the Nina Mason Pulliam
Charitable Trust. It recently joined with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, which is helping foster
youth in 18 states transition to adulthood, now including Arizona.

“Young adults in foster care are often overlooked as real experts in what works for them. But they are the
guiding force for our Initiative in Arizona,” said Meghan Arrigo, Manager of the Arizona Youth
Opportunities Initiative. Within the first year, the Initiative’s focus will include outreach on educational,
medical, and financial services and programs available to current and former young people who experienced
foster care.

“Youth in foster care need to know that happy futures are possible,” said Luis De La Cruz, 22, a former
foster youth now helping to guide the Arizona initiative. “We want to help build a system that will change
the landscape for all our little brothers and sisters.”

Foster youth who want to share their story, build a youth network, design training and events and develop an
advocacy agenda can complete an application online at www.azchildren.org or contact Meghan Arrigo at
602-266-0707 ext. 211, or at marrigo@azchildren.org

The costs of doing nothing are great

Youth who grow up in Arizona’s foster care system miss out on experiencing the essential independent
living skills and community connections that youth in traditional families get. “We want these young people
to have some of the same support systems that we provide to our own children,” said Belen Gonzalez, a
Pulliam Trust program officer who has led work on this initiative and helped bring the Jim Casey
organization to Arizona. “It is about putting these youth in the best position for success, including making
sure they have at least one connection to a helpful, understanding adult in their lives.”

In addition to the personal struggle of youth who age out of the foster care system, there is a tangible
financial cost on our communities. According to a recent study by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities
Initiative, these “graduates” of foster care, on average, will then cost taxpayers about $300,000 in future
public assistance, incarceration costs, lost taxes and other expenses over that person’s lifetime.

Youth not aware of services

A planning study conducted by Children’s Action Alliance for the Initiative found that few young adults are
participating in established programs and the community is not aware of what services are available and how
to qualify for them.

“While over the past two decades, Arizona established a myriad of laws, policies, programs and services, we
are still struggling to help foster youth transition to adulthood,” said Dana Wolfe Naimark, President and
CEO of Children’s Action Alliance. “Our partnership with the Jim Casey foundation and community
agencies throughout the state will help us to improve our systems so that youth who have been victims of
abuse and neglect have opportunities for health care, housing, education, and employment.”

“Young people need lifelong relationships with caring adults, and the supports that all young people need in
those difficult, critical years. There is no substitute for a family, so it is our challenge to help young people
stay in school, get jobs or job training, learn to manage money in ways that build future success. We are
pleased and excited to be working with outstanding organization taking on this effort, especially the Nina
Mason Charitable Pulliam Trust for the leadership and resources required for success,” said Gary J. Stangler,
executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.

Story contacts:
• Meghan Arrigo, Children’s Action Alliance (602-266-0707, ext. 211)
• Belen Gonzales, Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust (602-955-3000)
• Luis De La Cruz, alumni of foster care and consultant to the Initiative, (602-386-6362)
• Nancy Tully, director of communications at Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative
(314-863-7000 x113) or ntully@jimcaseyyouth.org)

Photo attached: Luis De La Cruz (left) and Frank Smith are among the former foster care youth who are
helping to guide the Arizona Youth Opportunities Initiative. (Photo by Suzanne Star)LuisFrankCAAphoto