Fresno man contributes to ending the foster care to prison pipeline

Amanda Aguilar Image
Monday, November 7, 2022
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Fresno resident, Blade Oestreich, has caught the eyes of The White House by taking to action to bring awareness to the issues young people face while in foster care and the juvenil

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- President Joe Biden writes, "We recommit to transforming our juvenile justice system, shifting its focus from punishment to support - from the past to the future."

This is his proclamation for National Youth Justice Action Month.

It includes what the Administration is currently doing to address issues within the juvenile system and what can still be done.

Fresno resident Blade Oestreich helped the Biden administration develop many of those recommendations listed in the proclamation.

"What we've been asking is that they use federal funds to ensure that their juvenile justice system is upheld in a better light, and to be able to start focusing money on mentorship and coaching and being able to help out with some of the education pieces of it," Oestreich says.

Oestreich launched the Juvenile Justice Think Tank, an effort part of the National Foster Youth Institute, which aims to end the foster care-to-prison pipeline.

"A quarter of foster youth will be involved with the criminal justice system within two years of getting out of child welfare," he says. "A significant number are involved in the justice system as children."

Think Tank members have experienced this firsthand.

Using their experience, they held meetings with White House officials about policies that could prevent it from happening to other foster kids.

They say many end up in jail over what they believe are "trivial, non-violent issues."

The Think Tank's photo project, seen by the Biden administration, shows those issues.

"It can be a lack of placement in child welfare. So that means a lack of beds in group homes, and so they end up placing in juvenile justice," he says. "It could also be stealing or fighting, which can be easily put on probational offenses instead of incarcerating time."

Oestreich has spent more than ten years advocating for children in foster care and jail. But he is now calling on the community to task local lawmakers to be a voice for kids.

"We can start stopping the overflow of our youth going into the justice system and start getting the care that is needed to make sure our folks are becoming young leaders in our community," Oestreich says.