August 9, 2012
Concord, NH – More than 100 youth from all over New Hampshire gathered at Keene State College to participate in the Eighth Annual Division for Children Youth and Families (DCYF) Teen Conference. The conference was an all-day learning experience designed to address the unique needs of older adolescents making the transition from “out of home care” to adulthood and independence.
“We want our youth to be as successful as possible,” said New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas. “This conference is an opportunity to bring teens together, share experiences and help equip them with some of the tools they will need as they begin to prepare for the future.”
The theme of this year’s conference was the “When Life’s Not FAIR” as selected by the NH Youth Voices. Co- sponsors included NH Youth Voices, the University of New Hampshire Center for Professional Excellence in Child Welfare, and the New Hampshire Higher Education Assistance Foundation (NHHEAF). The keynote presentation was Digital Stories, a unique way for youth in care to tell their story through the use of images, pictures, music and their own narration. The stories were created in collaboration with the National Resource Center for Permanency at the Hunter College School of Social Work. There were a number of workshops geared toward providing youth attendees with helpful information on topics such as getting a job, self advocacy, navigating the college admissions process and staying safe online. There was also an opportunity for youth to network, and learn about resources to assist them as they transition to adulthood.
“It is incredibly important that we engage our youth as they plan for the future,” said DHHS’ Director of the Division of Children, Youth and Families, Maggie Bishop. “This conference is an opportunity for us to talk with teens about issues that are important to their future success. We want them to realize how important it is that we work together, and that they are a valued part of the system that is working on their behalf.”
During the conference, Director Bishop signed the DCYF’s Youth in Care Bill of Rights. These rights are intended to guide DCYF and its provider in the delivery of care and services to youth in out-of-home care with the commitment to permanency, safety and well-being. These rights provide youth with a “voice” regarding their DCYF involvement while ensuring opportunities for normal life experiences. Director Bishop also signed the New England Youth Coalition’s Sibling Bill of Rights which formally recognize the value of sibling relationships and reinforce DCYF’s commitment to preserve these important connections for children and youth in State care. The New England Association of Child Welfare Commissioner and Directors (NEACWCD) and the New England Youth Coalition (NEYC) created the Sibling Bill of Rights together. NEYC serves as an advisory group to NEACWCD identifying systemic issues that need to be improved from the perspective of youth in care.