WASHINGTON, D.C. – May 18, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — Approximately 23,000 youth age out of the foster care system each year. For youth who age out of the foster care system, finding reliable and secure housing is one of their biggest challenges. Of these youth, approximately 11 percent to 36 percent become homeless, while another 25 percent to 50 percent experience unstable housing. Today, the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, co-chaired by Sens. Chuck Grassley and Debbie Stabenow, sponsored a panel discussion on foster youth homelessness. The open discussion allowed advocates, child welfare organizations, and congressional staff to learn about and discuss the challenges foster youth face with finding housing.
This panel discussion is the second of three educational panels hosted by the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth throughout the month of May, National Foster Care Month.
Participants in the homelessness discussion panel included:
Matthew Stagner, Mathematic Policy Research
Senior fellow Matthew Stagner directs the human services research in Mathematica’s Chicago office. He is a nationally known expert on youth development and risk behaviors, child welfare, evaluation design and methods and the role of research in policymaking.
His work focuses on policies and programs for vulnerable youth, such as those transitioning out of foster care or into employment and postsecondary education.
Prior to joining Mathematica, Stagner served as executive director of Chapin Hall and as a senior lecturer at the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies, both housed at the University of Chicago. Stagner also served as director of the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute and director of the Division of Children and Youth Policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Among his many professional activities and honors, Stagner is a member of the Welfare and Family Self-Sufficiency Research Technical Working Group in the Office of Policy Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, DHHS. He has also served as a reviewer for the Children and Youth Services Review, the Journal of Adolescent Health and the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences Early Childhood Panel.
Stagner received the National Partnership for Reinventing Government “Hammer Award” for his help in creating the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. He is also a recipient of the Commendable Service Award from DHHS. He holds a Ph.D. from the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago, and a master’s in public policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Stagner also serves on the steering committee of the Consortium on Chicago School Research.
Dani Townsend, Foster Youth (age 22)
Dani spent eight years in the Illinois foster care system. She had both good and bad experiences but refused to let her past determine her future. During Dani’s transition to adulthood, she spent some nights in stairwells of apartment building or University buildings, or on a friend’s couch, since she did not have access to housing. During this period, she was in an unsafe environment involving the drug scene and trafficking. She became involved with a man who promised safety and housing to Dani but he later pulled her into the world of trafficking. Despite these barriers, Dani was able to escape this relationship and enroll in college, where she received financial aid. This financial support allowed her to secure a safer living situation and she is now able to focus on her own safety and well-being.
Tamisha Macklin, Foster Youth (age 27)
Tamisha spent 12 years Colorado’s foster care system and emancipated at the age of 19. She lived in foster homes, kinship care placements, and juvenile detention. Despite being placed in restrictive settings, she re-acclimated into the community and became an advocate through her resilience.
Tamisha has been determined to complete college after hearing that foster youth are less likely to finish a bachelor’s degree than homeless youth. Experiencing both situations, Tamisha could have easily fallen through the cracks. Ever since aging out of the system, housing has proven to be a consistent barrier for Tamisha to reach her educational goals. Currently homeless, she is eager to complete her degree so that she can use her education for a stable job, which will help secure her own financial means for stable housing.
Taevon Harvin-Pierre, Foster Youth (age 20)
Taevon has endured many struggles his whole life growing up in Florida’s Child Welfare System. He has endured homelessness, the foster care system, aging out at age 18, and has struggled to support himself while striving to pursue his dreams. Within the first few months of aging out, Taevon found himself couch surfing and unable to make ends meet. He struggled to find a safe and stable place to live while pursuing his GED and higher education. His living situation interrupted his college enrollment, which compounded his barriers to a successful transition to adulthood. Regardless, Taevon is determined to finish college, even if that means experiencing homelessness to do so.
Hilary Swab Gawrilow, CSH
Hilary Swab Gawrilow is dedicated and passionate affordable housing policy advocate and wonk with ten years of experience working with members of Congress and federal agencies to expand affordable housing opportunities for all households. As the current Director of Federal Policy at CSH, Mrs. Gawrilow is responsible for developing federal policy goals and priorities with CSH leadership and program staff. She promotes the organization’s policy priorities to members of Congress and their staff, federal agencies and with other housing organizations. Mrs. Gawrilow is also responsible for representing CSH in coalitions and incorporating the organization’s goals into larger housing agendas. She is also responsible for facilitating and managing the National Committee Organization (NOC), a coalition of housing organizations that are focused on increasing the supply of supportive housing for the most vulnerable populations and improving program delivery to make supportive housing easier to operate and develop. Prior to joining CSH, Mrs. Gawrilow was the Federal Policy Director at the National Housing Trust (NHT), a nonprofit that is dedicated to the preservation of affordable rental housing. She has also worked at the Department of Housing and Urban Develop, as well as in the U.S. House and Senate. Mrs. Gawrilow is currently studying law at the Washington College of Law at American University in Washington, D.C.
Anni Keane, You Gotta Believe
Anni Keane found her permanent home at the age of seventeen. She was very fortunate to get adopted at the age of twenty-four. Anni earned her Bachelor of Liberal Arts from the College of New Rochelle. Anni has over ten years of experience working with an agency called “You Gotta Believe”. YGB is an Older Teen Adoption Agency. Anni is the Senior Youth Advocate and leads the Nobody Ages Out (NAO) Initiative, which requires her to advocate and educate youth and child welfare professionals on the importance of families for youth and on finding families for every youth in care before they age out. She has put together a cadre of foster care alumni as her NAO Youth Advocates and they are spreading the word on this critical work. Anni has spoken all around the U.S. to advocate for teens in care. Anni Keane is also a winner of the North American Council on Adoptable Children Youth Advocate of the Year in 2007. Anni is a very strong advocate that nobody should age out alone.
Mark Dunham, Generations of Hope Development Corporation
Based in Washington, D.C., Mark Dunham serves as External Affairs Counsel for Generations of Hope Development Corporation (GHDC), the non-profit organization established to support nationwide adaptation and replication of the Generations of Hope Community (GHC) model. Mark works to advance GHDC’s public policy agenda by working with policy-makers and agency officials, and developing new intentional, intergenerational communities through public-private partnerships with local, state and national organizations. His comments today will focus on one such initiative, Genesis, which will be the first intergenerational community of its kind in the Nation’s Capital when it opens in DC this September.
A former US Senate legislative aide and 30-year DC resident, Mark’s career also includes service as senior vice president of a Washington public affairs consulting firm, where he crafted and led advocacy campaigns on behalf of major social service and cultural organizations, and work as a non-profit executive on innovative health education initiatives with former US Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, MD. He is a political science graduate of Louisiana State University and served as Chairman of the Board of Annunciation Mission, a non-profit organization in New Orleans that housed and supported more than 15,000 visiting volunteers involved in the city’s ongoing recovery from Hurricane Katrina.