Policy Work

Creating Systems Change for Better Futures



Leading with Data and Evidence to Better Serve
Transition-Age Foster Youth in the U.S.

We take a dual approach to our mission: results-driven direct services to support individual foster youth in achieving their goals and policy advocacy to improve the lives of as many foster youth as possible. Our direct service work informs our advocacy to promote stability and success for all foster youth. We monitor our work in real-time, consistently innovating to improve outcomes and sharing recommendations grounded in real practice with providers and policy-makers.

How We Make an Impact Through Policy

Our policy efforts span multiple levers to influence systems change for foster youth.

Levers for Systems Change

As a direct service provider, we operate within a system of laws, regulations, and funding streams that can alternately empower or hinder our work and the successful trajectories of our participants. We believe both providers and the youth they serve should help drive systems changes based on their direct knowledge of the field.

To that end, we engage system stakeholders to ground policy and practice in data, program learnings, and youth voices. Generally, foster system stakeholders share common, well-intentioned goals. By breaking down silos and sharing common knowledge, we have the opportunity to drive optimal outcomes together.

This means we use our data and learnings to influence:


The availability and flow of public funding.


The norms and practices reflected in the implementation of official policies by public agencies and program providers.


The narratives and “mental models” that keep a system stuck and prevent our young people from attaining success.

Legislative Achievements & Priorities

Each year, First Place for Youth monitors key legislation in California and beyond and partners with advocates and youth to push for policies that remove barriers to independence and advance equity for foster youth.

Watch this space to read about our policy priorities, recent wins and subscribe at the link below to receive policy updates.


Mississippi Youth Voice leaders advocated for and helped draft language for Mississippi House Bill 1313: the Kinkade FAITH Scholarship Program. Signed into law in April 2022, the bill authorized and funded college scholarships for Mississippi’s transition-age foster youth at public and private colleges in the state. Read more about this historic moment on our blog.

Successfully advocated for our top legislative priority, AB 1651, to expand eligibility and funding in all California counties for the Transitional Housing Plus Program (THP-Plus) from 24 months to 36 months and raising the upper age eligibility from 24 to 25 years.


After working closely with state legislators, AB 12 created a statewide extended foster care system for youth up to age 21.

President George W. Bush signed legislation advocated for by First Place to include federal funding for states that extended foster care eligibility beyond age 18 (Fostering Connections to Success Act).


Sam Cobbs testified before Congress in support of federal legislation to extend foster care to age 21.

Research & Recommendations

At First Place, everything begins with the youth we serve.

At every step, we collect quantitative and qualitative data to track outcomes, improve our services, and understand the impact of our work. Then, we analyze and leverage that data to generate learnings about what works best to support youth exiting foster care to independent adult lives.

In addition, we share our data by publishing research and policy briefs that highlight learnings within the field to help drive systems-level change to promote equitable outcomes for foster youth.

Here’s a collection of our latest research. Click below to explore our full collection of research and recommendations.


Building system- and provider-level evidence to drive equitable education and employment outcomes for youth in extended foster care


Comparing our outcomes to the top ten extended foster care non-minor dependent program (THP-NMD) peer providers in California.


Integrating Early and Periodic Screening Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) services into extended foster care placements: lessons learned


An Exploratory Study of Pregnant and Parenting Youth in the Foster Care System

Elevating Youth Voices

The voices of young people in our programs and program alumni inform our work. We solicit feedback and cultivate youth leaders to join our Board of Directors and engage in policy advocacy. We strongly believe it is critical for youth with lived experience in the foster care system to have a voice in developing policies that influence and impact their lives.

Young Adult Leadership Council (YALC)

Our Young Adult Leadership Council provides feedback on important program priorities and insight on key policy activities. The council also engages in advocacy efforts on behalf of First Place’s legislative priorities.

Mississippi Youth Voice Program

Young leaders work together with policy makers, regulators, foster parents, foster youth and other stakeholders to improve outcomes for foster youth in the state

What’s Happening At First Place for Youth

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