Leadership

The Virginia youth advisory board SPEAKOUT (Strong Positive Educated Advocates Keen On Understanding the Truth) is for teens and young adults in foster care and alumni (an adult previously in foster care) who are interested in using their voice to help change and improve the foster care system.

The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) recognizes the importance of hearing the voice of these teens and young adults to make a difference in the way they are served in the foster care system. SPEAKOUT will be responsible for providing feedback directly to VDSS, legislators, other state agencies, LDSS directors, the Board for Social Services, and others.

Mission

We are Virginia foster youth and alumni from all diversity groups who help others by creating change in the foster care system, turning receivers into leaders, creating lifelong connections, promoting positive stigma and empowering youth to become successful young adults.

Vision

Our vision is to be an experienced group that has changed the foster care system so that it produces successful adults who are self-advocates with positive, permanent connections, improved and equal opportunities, and empowers youth.

Who can be a Board member?

Youth and alumni ages 15-26 who are either currently in the foster care system or those who have had experience in foster care are eligible to apply. The Board consists of 15-20 alumni from across Virginia.

What’s in it for you?

Your involvement in SPEAKOUT provides many opportunities to gain skills and a sense of empowerment as well as make healthy, lifelong connections with positive role models, both peers and adults. During the development of SPEAKOUT, youth and alumni shared the following benefits of participation:

  • Meet others who have had success
  • Make positive change for yourself and others
  • Have your voice heard
  • Give, receive and find encouragement
  • Support to make aging out of care easier

When does the Board meet?

SPEAKOUT’s first Board meeting was held in November 2016. Meetings are held at least four (4) times a year in-person with additional virtual meetings as needed.

How do I apply?

Are you interested in helping to create change in foster care policy? Do you have experience in the foster care system you’re willing to use to help other teens and young adults in foster care? If so, consider applying to SPEAKOUT to provide input directly to VDSS.

Youth and alumni who are interested in being a part of SPEAKOUT must submit an application. If you are still in care and/or receiving services from DSS, your DSS worker must also fill out the worker form.

Once the application is submitted, you will be notified of whether you have been accepted.

Who do I contact if I have questions?

If you would like more information or if you have any questions, please email speakout@dss.virginia.gov or contact:

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