California Youth Connection was founded in 1988 by a group of foster youth and supportive adults to provide a vehicle for California foster youth to learn leadership and advocacy skills and to engage directly with policymakers to improve the foster care system. Founded on the model of youth empowerment, more than twenty years later CYC maintains a dual focus on policy and youth development. CYC is the only organization in California to engage foster youth in the policy making process, and is now a national model.
Every year, CYC serves more than 500 foster youth members, ages 14-24, through 32 county-based chapters throughout the state. Core CYC activities include: training members on legislative and policy advocacy, educating policymakers and providers about foster youth's experiences, presenting members’ recommendations for legislative and policy changes, and providing input to county and state policymakers as they work to implement policy changes and improve the foster care system. CYC is headquartered in San Francisco with satelllite offices in Los Angeles and Sacramento. CYC has a staff of 16.5 FTE and a budget of $2.2-million.
The foster youth leaders of California Youth Connection have created a fundamental paradigm shift in child welfare policy in California, and now foster youth are at the center of child welfare policymaking for the first time in history. They are full partners at the policy table, their priorities are shaping reform, and the rate of reform is rapidly increasing. CYC has a 23-year track record of policy accomplishments, has trained advocates in over 12 states, and has set a new national standard others are eager to emulate.
California Youth Connection is the founding partner of the National Foster Youth Action Network.