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Independent Living Advocacy Group Members
Jamie Cohn, Chair
Susan Abramowich
Jill Beck
Sharon Biondo
Heather Chapman
Crystal Cioci
Leah Cullen
Cheryl Gorski
Kristen Hunsicker
Sara Johnson
Anita Levels
Jennifer McGarrity
Nathaniel Morely
Lynne Naploeon
Judith Patterson
Ron Phillips
Christine Serra
Rebecca Shafer
Jennifer Staley
Theresa Vangenewitt
Michael Wahlen
KidsVoice would like to thank the following supporters:
The Allegheny County Bar Foundation
The American Eagle Outfitters Foundation
The Verizon Foundation
KidsVoice IL Advocacy Group

The Independent Living Advocacy Group (IL Advocacy Group) was formed by a group of KidsVoice staff concerned about the lack of options for teen clients in foster and residential placements who turn 18 or “age out” of the child welfare system without the resources to successfully live independently. The IL Advocacy Group is devoted to creating more and better options for our teen clients by removing the barriers which prevent so many eligible youth from understanding and accessing IL resources such as education, housing, public benefits and employment.
Comprised of attorneys and child advocacy specialists who volunteer their time, the IL Advocacy Group gives presentations to youth and to residential placements and service providers about the services, rights and resources available to youth in substitute care. The IL Advocacy group also:

-hosts an annual Independent Living Resource Fair for youth in placement,

-publishes a brochure as well as a guidebook about the rights of youth in substitute care and

-is coordinating a Youth Advisory Board for youth currently and formerly involved in the Allegheny County child welfare system to inform and influence policies and practices affecting youth in substitute care.

For information concerning the IL Advocacy Group, please contact Bill Petulla at (412) 391-3100 or email at ilinfo@kidsvoice.org or jcohn@kidsvoice.org

Resource Fair -
The 2008 resource fair was a great success. The purpose of the Independent Living Resource Fair is to educate children on the various services available to them once they leave the foster care system. This free event, highlights and provides access to services and programs available to older youth leaving the foster care system, including post-secondary education, armed forces, housing, job training and employment services. If you are interested in presenting, having a booth , or attending the 2009 Resource Fair please email KidsVoice at ilinfo@kidsvoice.org

Know Your Rights Poster -
This poster is a compilation of various rights that exist for children in substitute care. To download a poster or to request a poster email ilinfo@kidsvoice.org.

Know Your Rights Manual -
In cooperation with the Juvenile Law Center and members of the Pennsylvania Youth Advisory Board the Know Your Rights guidebook has been issued. This guidebook, which is based on Pennsylvania law, provides youth with information about their legal rights in substitute care and about how to advocate for themselves. This guidebook is presented in question and answer format and is designed for use by youth as well as family members, friends, educators and service and placement providers assisting youth in transitioning to independent living. Click here to download a copy. If you are a client and would like to receive a hard copy of the book, please email ilinfo@kidsvoice.org with your name and address. Non-clients can obtain a copy of the guidebook for $5.00 by calling the Juvenile Law Center at 1-800-875-8887. You can also download the manual at the Independent Living website.

Know Your Rights Appendix -
This appendix provides a list of Allegheny County Resources to help youth that are transitioning out of substitute care. To download the Allegheny County appendix click here. If you live outside of Allegheny County, visit Independent Living to view an appendix of resources in your county.

Pennsylvania Youth Advisory Board -
The purpose of this committee of youth is to work to improve the foster care system by giving youth a voice. Independent Living is a website devoted to children nearing their 18th birthday. The site consists of helpful information to assist children in funding college and SAT preparation. It also includes a link to the Youth Advisory Board, or “YAB.” The YAB is made up of teens who are presently in group home or foster care or who have been in placement in the past. The YAB gives presentation throughout Pennsylvania, including the Pennsylvania legislature, on issues that effect children in group home or foster care. Another useful tool on the independent living website is the “Know Your Rights” link which provides an assortment of rights for children involved with Children Youth & Families. Clicking on the link labeled “Youth 411” leads browsers to a collection of information for employment, mental health, public benefits, housing, education and a listing of essential documents teens need before they turn 18 years old. Lastly, the website provides a forum for children who would like to express their frustrations, accomplishments and questions to other teens accessing the site. Send an email to ilinfo@kidsvoice.org to learn about upcoming YAB meetings or how to join the Pennsylvania YAB or the Southwestern Regional YAB chapter coordinated by KidsVoice.

Members of the IL Advocacy Group spoke at Daniel Memorial Conference in St. Louis on September 15, 2006

Members of the IL Advocacy Group spoke at the National Association of Children's Counsel in Louisville on October 14, 2006

IL Advocacy Group Resource Fair Coming November 2009.

If you would like the IL Advocacy Group to speak to KidsVoice clients and/or your agency staff please contact William Petulla at (412)391-3100 or email at ilinfo@kidsvoice.org or jcohn@kidsvoice.org

Case News -
In a precedent setting case involving teen clients in foster care, KidsVoice secured county assistance for foster children pursuing post-secondary education (from ages 18-21) by providing ongoing case management, foster care payments to their foster families to house the children during school breaks, and limited financial assistance to help defray daily living expenses. In the Interest of S.J., 2006 Pa. Super 195) Where parental support doesn’t exist for our clients KidsVoice attempts to highlight and address those needs through innovative practice. Click here to read the full opinion.

The Bridge of Pittsburgh -
Is a one stop shop for children aging out or who have aged out of the foster care system. KidsVoice has partnered with The Bridge of Pittsburgh and helps to provide outreach to youth. For more information on The Bridge of Pittsburgh please click here