2015 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Lily Eagle Colby

Lily Eagle Colby

Name of Host Organization: Youth Law Center
City, State: San Francisco, California
Issue area: Education/Special Education, Children/Youth
Sponsors: Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman Foundation

The Project

Lily will provide education-related legal advocacy and outreach to kin caregivers, foster parents, and pre-adoptive families. She will provide direct services, train caregivers, and implement systemic policy change aimed at improving the educational outcomes of youth in the foster care system. By providing education-related legal advocacy to caregivers, Lily’s project will provide an innovative approach to enforcing the rights of foster children in California.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
The educational challenges of foster youth are well documented. Foster youth experience higher rates of school suspension and expulsions, poorer grades, higher rates of dropping out of high school, and lower rates of attaining post-secondary education. Even compared to other low-income students, foster youth are twice as likely to be eligible for special education services and four times as likely to change schools at least once during the school year. Although it is well understood that parenting and educational involvement of parental figures has a huge impact on the educational attainment of children, the child welfare system has traditionally neglected foster parents as a resource for addressing the educational needs of foster youth. The caregivers, those that have the most contact with the youth and the most information about each child’s day-to-day educational experience, are not being provided the training and support needed to navigate the complex education, dependency and special education systems.
The Right Person For This Project: 
Lily is the right person for the project because:
• As a former foster youth and former foster parent, she understands personally the difficulties facing children in the foster care system
• She has experience advocating for child welfare policy change at the state and federal levels
• She has represented children in the foster care system and served as a co-director of a student clinic providing educational advocacy to foster youth
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship: 
In the first six months, Lily will:
• Collaborate with the Youth Law Center (YLC) Quality Parenting Initiative and the Educational Equity for Foster Care and Juvenile Justice Youth project
• Set up a call line and intake procedure to begin representing caregivers
• Recruit volunteers working with advocacy organizations, law schools and her sponsor, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP

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