Hello! We are the young parent leaders of the Center for the Study Social Policy’s Youth Power Parent Power initiative. We all have lived experience in foster care and are passionate advocates for reforming the child welfare system. The Youth Power Parent Power initiative aims to improve outcomes for expectant and parenting youth in and transitioning out of foster care, end the intergenerational involvement of families entering foster care, and promote reproductive health justice for all young people. Our work is driven by the leadership of expectant and parenting youth from communities across the country who collaborate with public systems leaders, advocates, community leaders, and youth-serving professionals.
Meet Emma Johnson
Hi. My name is Emma Johnson. I was born and raised in Nebraska. Growing up, I had a lack of resources and social connections. As an adult, I learned the value of being connected to resources, and a support system can benefit people and their families. That’s why I was motivated to start my advocacy journey. What I enjoy the most about this work are the connections I have made with the team, the knowledge I’ve gained on how to help myself and my peer advocate, and being able to help repair a broken system. Outside of the Youth Power Parent Power initiative, I work for the Southeast NE Collaborative, an organization committed to building a community-based prevention system. I am so grateful to have a job that allows me to help community members and partners work better together and learn to lean on each other again. I am also a mom of an 8-year-old little guy who is hands down the coolest kid I’ve ever met. We spend a lot of our time talking and debating the answer to some of life’s dire or nonsense questions like: if you bend a paperclip, is it still considered a paperclip?
Hello, My name is Sando Zou-Capuzzi. I currently reside in the state of Georgia, the greater Atlanta area, to be more precise. I was a new young father when I was first introduced to advocacy work. I was trying to manage my time, budding career, and provide for my daughter. One way I enjoy connecting with my daughter is by doing nature walks. When I got involved with the Youth Power Parent Power initiative, I began to see the importance and need for advocating for young families and the need to support them. The work became important to me when I started to learn how to use the power of strategic storytelling. I enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals getting together to plan impactful strategies for young people experiencing foster care systems. I enjoy the sense of empowerment I feel from the adult supporters as they help us strengthen our skills and capabilities to their full potential. I also enjoy the exposure the work afforded me. Since I began advocacy work, I have been exposed to new people and environments I never thought I would have access to. It truly has been great! I have gained the skills of strategic storytelling, data organization, data decomposition, information presentation, and meeting facilitation, to name a few. Outside the Youth Power Parent Power initiative, I work full-time as an Info Tech Apprentice for Elevance Health. I am also a full-time student at Atlanta Technical College, with two more semesters before I graduate with my associate degree in Cyber Security.
Hi, I’m Blanca. I’m from Rhode Island. As a young person, I didn’t know where to go to navigate the systems needed to obtain the resources I needed to become a successful and independent adult after transitioning out of foster care. I joined my local youth board for a couple of meetings. Through that, I discovered that I enjoyed utilizing my own story (filled with struggles and tribulations) to guide changes to the system for youth in the same broken system. One of the many things I enjoy about doing advocacy work is meeting other lived experience experts and strategizing with them on what policies, programs, and practices we can change to create a better experience for youth currently in care or transitioning. The list of skills I have gained over the past decade of work is long. If I had to pick, my top three would be not being intimidated by others in a room regardless of their credentials or qualifications, the ability to deliver a complex topic of discussion, and strategic sharing. I use many of these skills in my personal life to become a better advocate, not just for other foster youth but for other young parents, and to be an example to my kids; some things may seem difficult to change, but that doesn’t mean it’s not meant to be changed. The biggest skill I’m working to master is the ability to facilitate any group discussion I walk into. I’m often intimidated by certain topics or how a specific population may react in a focus group, which will often deter me from wanting to facilitate those conversations. I hope to one day be able to walk into a discussion and offer to facilitate without the concern of who may be in the spaces or how they will react during the discussions. Outside of work, I’m a stay-at-home mom and business owner. I have three beautiful and intelligent boys I care for, who were the reason for starting my crafting business. Well, them and my love for making unique items. My small business, AniManga Creations, makes all sorts of custom creations, from tumblers to blankets! It’s been great to be available full-time to support my kids in their school activities and just being kids, as it wasn’t something I was fortunate enough to experience as a child. My kids and I like to garden, specifically roses and sunflowers. They love understanding how water and sunlight can affect the growth of plants, and they love to try their own experiments. It’s amazing to see how curious they are about how everything works.
Hi, my name is Azar Webb III. I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska. I love this work because I was a young teen without experience when I first started speaking to highlight issues I saw in the child welfare system. I never knew how much power my voice had until I started my advocacy work. I decided to use my voice as an outlet to let those who feel powerless know they have power too. Being a young parent leader excites me. I thrive off shaking a room, making noise in a silent place, and shifting the narrative on how young parents are viewed. Youth Power, Parent Power is intentional about disrupting and replacing harmful narratives, structural racism, and bias that create barriers for expectant and parenting youth, their children, and families. Through this work, I have gained knowledge, power, friendships, and peace within. I love this group because of what we have done through our years together. I enjoyed the first Learning and Action Network (LAN) we launched. LAN brought together diverse groups across multiple jurisdictions, who do not often work together, including lived experience experts, researchers, public policy leaders, experts on adolescent brain development, protective factors, and well-being, system leaders including public health, early childhood education, and child welfare, advocates, and multidisciplinary practitioners across jurisdictions to align their strategies and contributions. I really enjoyed the Emerging Leaders Development Program of the LAN, which was a space for young leaders to connect, learn from one another, and participate in skill-building sessions. I couldn’t have been asked for a better group of young parents to help me grow. Outside of the Youth Power, Parent Powe initiative, I am an architect. I have an associate degree in architectural design. In my spare time, I coach a middle school football league. I tutor my nieces and nephews, I work on cars with my dad, and I take care of my family around the clock. I have a son, and he is the sweetest boy ever. I have full custody of him. We go to the park, movies, play video games and enjoy food. He’s the best 5-year-old ever (biased dad). He truly makes a difference in my life as I learn from him each day as a man, father, and role model.