Broke in Philly

Gov. Wolf hasn’t answered their letter, so foster youth plan Twitter onslaught

A tweetstorm will call on Pennsylvania to extend services during the pandemic.

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Governor Tom Wolf / Flickr

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Tasha Snowden wants Gov. Tom Wolf’s attention.

A former foster youth and member of the Pa. chapter of the Foster Care Alumni of America, Snowden plans to lead a “tweetstorm” tomorrow. The coordinated social media campaign is designed to prompt a response to a letter the chapter sent the governor more than two weeks ago.

“We want people to use our hashtags and tag the governor,” said Snowden, 31, who is also a member of the National Foster Youth Institute. The message to Wolf: “This is how COVID-19 is affecting foster youth, and you ought to be supporting us at this time.”

More than 100 organizations signed off on the letter, including the Juvenile Law Center, Community Legal Services and the Field Center for Children’s Policy, Practice & Research at Penn. It asks the governor to suspend school and work requirements for older foster youth, extend care beyond age 21, and require counties to expedite requests to re-enter care. The letter also seeks a kind of grace period for foster youth — till six months after the pandemic ends — to allow youth to continue or begin education, work, and other efforts to become self-sufficient that have been stymied by the coronavirus.

Each year, about 700 or more young people in Pennsylvania age out of the foster care system, facing an increased risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness, trauma and more. Advocates say expecting foster youth to thrive in an economy wracked by the government shutdown is unrealistic.

Americans who aren’t in the foster system enjoy parental support well into their 20s, often moving back in at least once before age 27, according to various reports, including a longitudinal study conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“But us, we’re expected to be purely self-sufficient at age 18 or 21,” said Snowden. “It’s just good-bye. …And so we go through all the trauma of being a foster child and then we are re-traumatized.”

The Foster Care Alumni group is promoting Tuesday’s tweetstorm to begin at 2 p.m. ET,  using the @governortomwolf and #AGINGOUTYOUTHMATTER, #EXTENDSERVICESPA and #FOSTERCAREAWARENESS.

May is also National Foster Care month.

The governor’s office is working on a “formal response” to the letter, according to Erin James, spokesperson for Pa.’s Office of Children, Youth and Families, which James said is “committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children and youth.”

Numerous other states have already acted to protect older foster youth, including Arkansas and Ohio, where governors signed executive orders to make it happen.

Snowden said she’ll consider the event a success if Wolf engages with them. “We sent you a letter and you have not responded in more than two weeks,” she said. “They ought to talk with us.”

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