"What does this mean to me?"
It's a good question asked by a 19 year old who lives in Cunningham's Transitional Living (TL) home. She was one of about 15 youth who gathered to hear about Illinois Governor Rauner's proposed cuts to the State's budget which include elimination of all services to DCFS youth ages 18-21.
It was clear from the discussion in the room that our youth have many concerns and questions about their future if services are eliminated. Cunningham's staff did a great job of explaining the legislative process and how it may take months of discussions before the real cuts, if any, are known.
Another youth asked how soon programs could be cut. "The earliest could be July 1," which caused a low murmur in the room. Angie Bertauski-Pierce who oversees Cunningham's Transitional and Independent Living Programs reassured the group saying, "We are here to support you. We will plan for the worst but hope for the best. If you have a job, we'll work with you to start saving money. Or we can help you strengthen job skills and find resources in the community."
Larome, an 18-year-old TL youth, asked who he needed to talk to about the cuts. He wants legislators to know that he is moving forward with his life and Cunningham has supported that process. He says cuts to DCFS funding would send him "back packin'" to the life he's working to leave behind.
Cunningham's Community Services Director Angie Adams Martin explained that the youth could advocate for themselves by talking to lawmakers and sharing their stories with the media. They were also encouraged to reach out to the DCFS Youth Advisory Board and participate in a Twitter event sponsored by the Illinois Chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America (FCAA) and the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY) on March 10 at 4:30 p.m.
Note: Cunningham is committed to our vision - to see every child thrive. We will continue to support and advocate for the youth that we care about so they receive the services that they deserve.
You can also reach out to local legislators to ask them not to support the FY16 proposed budget as it relates to cuts to programs for DCFS foster youth ages 18-21. You can locate your elected officials based on your address.