On March 7 and 8, GUIDE partnered with the Georgia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) to conduct the first ever Teens R 4 Me Conference. The conference took place at the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly Hotel and welcomed more than 450 participants from across the state. The entirety of the conference focused on supporting foster youth as they transition out of care and making sure they’re successful during that process. The transition can sometimes be difficult; therefore, it was imperative to provide participants with ample resources, skills and tools needed to be successful. The conference provided said resources based on five pillars: Connected, Educated, Employable, Healthy and Safe.
On Day One, the conference sought to follow these objectives:
- Assist supervisors in identifying and utilizing best practices that support and promote quality Every Child Every Month (ECEM) visits to you in foster care, ages 14-21
- Provide tools and resources that strengthen the ability of DFCS staff to develop and execute transition plans that prepare youth for independence and self-sufficiency
- Provide guidance to DFCS leadership on policies and procedures that affect youth as they transition into adulthood and out of care
Social services case managers, supervisors, and DHS leadership came from all parts of Georgia to participate during this portion of the conference. The day started with inspiring words from Dr. Sharon Hill, DFCS Director, Commissioner Keith Horton and the always motivational J.R. Henderson. Afterwards, participants had the opportunity to hear from experts in the field from state agencies such as the Georgia Department of Education and the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, as well as organizations including Georgia Care Connection and the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership. In addition, young adults that have transitioned out of care acted as panelists, which provided youth voice to each of the topics. This allowed participants to gain a better understanding of the youth they serve. The various panels of experts provided resources and skills that participants could immediately take back and share with youth. Juvenile Court Judge Vincent Crawford closed out the day providing information on new policies and procedures related to the field. DFCS staff left the conference motivated and inspired to share these resources and skills with their fellow coworkers and youth in their programs.
On the evening of Day One, the conference welcomed youth and young adults, ages 14-21, who are currently in or recently transitioned out of care. Conference Staff greeted participants with smiling faces, lots of fun activities and amazing food! On Day Two, participants had the opportunity to be energized by the fantastic performer J. Fly and motivated by J.R. Henderson. Similar to the first day, participants then divided into various breakout sessions and learned about resources and skills needed to be successful during transition. This included how to obtain college scholarships; skills needed to get and keep a job they love; and how to stay healthy, in both body and mind. The conference came to an end with an interactive resource café. During this time, participants were able to network with several exhibitors such as AmeriCorps, Georgia College 411, Covenant House and more! They also engaged in activities related to health and well-being, safety and connectedness. As the conference came to a close, several participants mentioned that they didn’t want to leave and kept asking when the next one would take place.
Because of this conference, DHS staff and youth in care now have resources they might not have received otherwise. Teens R 4 Me was truly a success! Thank you to DHS for asking GUIDE to be a part of this incredibly life-changing conference.