Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT)

YLAT is a joint project between Maine’s Youth in Foster Care, The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, and the Muskie School at University of Southern Maine. YLAT is committed to improving the short-term and long-term outcomes for youth who are or have been in foster care.

  • Facebook

YLAT, Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine, PO Box 9300, Portland, ME 04104-9300, phone: 207-780-5861

Foster Care Alumni Award

Each year, we recognize and honor the important contributions child welfare system alumni in Maine with the Foster Care Alumni Award. We will strive to award to a male and female alumni each year.

The recipient must be a former youth in care, 22 years old or older, who has demonstrated that he or she has:


  1. Made a strong commitment to helping youth currently in care.

  2. Advocated on behalf of youth in care.

  3. Practiced effective leadership within change efforts (such as youth leadership meetings, work groups, committee work, projects, etc.).

  4. Acted as a positive role model for youth in care.

Alumni Award Recipients
2018: Tia Knowlton-Basford and Huyanna Clearwater
Tia Knowton-Basford and Huyanna Clearwater

2016: Jessica Harris & Sierra Reed
Jessica Harris

Jessica Harris is a tireless advocate for youth in foster care. Unwavering in her passion to help improve the foster care system, Jessica has promoted change by inspiring and educating both youth and adults about issues of importance for youth in care. She has been a supportive peer by encouraging other youth to further their education and career success.
Jessica has been an active member of several groups working towards change including: the Youth Leadership Advisory Team, the New England Youth Coalition, and most recently the National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council. Jessica is currently using her experience from the policy council on a Maine initiative to pilot the use of housing vouchers and case management support to help youth from foster care who are experiencing homelessness.
Jessica helped design the Alumni Transition Grant Program to support youth in college who age out of the V-9 Agreement. Jessica provided testimony at the statehouse in favor of the law, helped write the rules for the program, serves as a co-facilitator for their Advisory Committee, and is helping develop an exit-survey. In May, Jessica completed her Bachelors of Social Work at the University of Maine, and is currently working in the field.

Sierra Reed

Sierra Reed has served as an alumni co-facilitator with Youth Justice League for the past two years. This offshoot of YLAT is hosted through Preble Street Teen Center. Despite some challenges, Sierra was able to laugh with the group, and always upheld the values of YLAT – finding meaningful ways to engage the needs and interests of all the young people in the group, and also creating a space for people to be themselves.
A strong advocate on panels to train foster parents and providers about the unique challenges faced by youth who identify as LGBTQ, Sierra has shown tremendous courage and insight through her willingness to share her own journey of exploration and identity. Sierra is also involved with the Southern Maine Youth Transition Network (SMYTN) where she has been a voice for youth in foster care, both with local organizations in Southern Maine and at National Conferences from Aspen, Colorado to New Orleans, Louisiana. Sierra brings a unique, confident, and real perspective to anything she is a part of, and this is truly a gift to anyone who has had the privilege to work with her. Most importantly, Sierra leads with absolute heart, and it is her deep compassion that makes her such a remarkable leader.

Foster Care Alumni Award Recipients:


2015: Cheri Crossman & Carleigh Lynn Boston

2014: Josh Magaw & Jill Esty
2013: Denise Altvater & BJ Kitchin
2012: Michael Augustine & Kesha Shelton