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Ensuring Successful Transitions for Youth Aging out of Foster Care A Co-Investment Site of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative
National Overview Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative • Created to improve outcomes for young people who leave foster care. • The Initiative’s vision is for all young people leaving foster care to make successful transitions into adulthood. • Mission is to bring together the people, systems and resources necessary to assist youth leaving foster care in making successful transitions to adulthood.
Initiative Sites Delaware is a partnership with the Delaware Center for Justice, Eckerd Family Foundation, and the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families
THE NUMBER OF YOUTH AGING OUT OF FOSTER CARE HAS INCREASED EVERY YEAR SINCE 2001 THE TOTAL NUMBER IN FOSTER CARE HAS DECREASED EVERY YEAR SINCE 1999 National Data Source: Kids are Waiting and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative (2007); Time for Reform: Aging Out and On Their Own. Philadelphia, PA: Pew Charitable Trust
Theory of Change Young people are decision makers and advocates for themselves Young people have access to an array of opportunities that support them Partners in public and private systems provide necessary resources and support Public will is galvanized by the need to improve outcomes and policy is focused on the reforms necessary to improve outcomes Stakeholders use data to drive decision making, communications, and the documentation of results All five strategies working together lead to improved outcomes and systems for youth leaving foster care.
Policy Improvements In other Sites Policy Influence System Improvements Advocacy and influence generated by youth, community partnerships and data Medicaid expanded to age 21 in states: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and Michigan Tuition waivers and expanded supports 18-21: Florida, Iowa, and Maine Court improvements: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, and Rhode Island Permanency efforts imbedded in legislation and policy: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, and Rhode Island Sibling rights visitation: Iowa and Maine
The Adolescent Brain • Cutting-edge research done by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative on brain development in the adolescent years. • Research shows that brains are not fully mature until at least 25, and even later for some individuals. • Trauma, physical or psychological, can disrupt and delay brain development. • Children typically enter foster care with complex histories and family relationships that can lead to chronic mental health problems, factors that are likely to impact their emotional, social and behavioral maturity. However, because of its neuroplasticity, the adolescent brain can be “rewired” and gain resiliency.
recommendations for significantly changing the treatment of older youth and young adults in foster care: • Provide “interdependent,” not independent, living services that connect young people with caring adults who can help them build essential social capital, skills and confidence. • Provide for positive youth development, which is a neurological necessity. • Ensure that child welfare employees understand how youth’s past experience with trauma and loss affects their brain development. • Extend foster care to age 21.
Delaware’s Involvement • Delaware became a Jim Casey site in January 2011. • The Delaware Center for Justice received funding in 2011 and 2012 for this initiative by the Eckerd Family Foundation. In 2013 the Longwood and Welfare Foundations will fund the Initiative. • DCJ will serve as the lead organization for implementation and has partnered with DSCYF in the effort. • Several DSCYF, DCJ staff members, and independent living providers attended a “convening” in November 2010 in Clearwater, Florida for all current Casey sites. The meeting provided framework models and strategies for moving forward as a co-investment state. • A full-time coordinator and a part-time youth advisor were hired to oversee implementation of the project in January 2011. The youth advisor will become full-time in 2013.
Delaware’s Environmental Scan • The Delaware Initiative completed an Environmental Scan in June 2011. • The Scan is a comprehensive look at the services provided and other needed services for foster care youth throughout the state. • The University of Delaware’s Institute of Public Administration and Delaware State University collected much of the needed data, and the Institute of Public Administration edited and produced the final document. • A full version of the scan can be read here: http://www.ipa.udel.edu/publications/PhaseIIEnvScan.pdf.
Delaware’s Enhancements • MOU between all state agencies outlining the supportive services that will be made available to transitioning youth. • Extended Court Jurisdiction (SB 113) that expands the role of the court for youth 18-21 who are experiencing difficulties in accessing independent living services. • Enhancements for Independent Living Providers
30 Family Unification Vouchers were provided to youth 18-21 who have exited care, to provide rental subsidies to youth based on their income. • Two youth are attending Delaware State University without cost that includes year round housing and designated supportive services to assist their acclimation to university life. • Youth may now apply for DSHA Section 8 program beginning at age 16, instead of age 18. • The ONLY compliant state in Region III for the National Youth in Transition Database.
Youth Advisory Council (YAC) • YAC, composed of current and former foster care youth, provides a safe and respectful forum for youth to share ideas, opinions, concerns and to develop leadership skills by planning and facilitating activities. • The youths’ voices are valued and listened to in YAC. No voice goes unheard. • Created Policy Agenda for DYOI that was shared with Delaware General Assembly.
Community Partnership Board • The purpose of the Community Partnership Board is to discuss areas that impact the lives of youth aging out of foster care and progress of the Initiative. • The Board will be divided into working groups to discuss many of the areas the environmental scan has identified as gaps in services, ranging from education to health care, etc. • In other sites, the Community Partnership Board has been utilized to push important policies through state legislatures, providing door-openers to those who have transitioned out of foster care, and to evaluate the outcomes of the Initiative.
Goals of the Initiative • Education • Young people acquire education and training that enable them to obtain and retain steady employment. • Physical and Mental Health • Young people have health insurance for both physical and mental health. • Housing • Young people have safe, stable, and affordable housing. • Employment and Transportation • Young people support themselves by obtaining and retaining steady employment and have access to transportation for work and school.
Goals of the Initiative • Policy • Young people, as advocates, help to create the agenda and approach for improving public policies and systems • Permanency • Every young person has an adult to rely on for a lifetime and a supportive family network. • Financial Literacy and Capability • Create an array of financial opportunities and help young people gain entry to them, through the Opportunity PassportTM Program. • Transitions • Young people have supportive relationships in the community that help them achieve their personal goals.
Improvements from Working Groups • The Policy Working Group successfully wrote HJR 18, sponsored by Rep. Mike Barbieri, to create a report researching extending foster care to 21 in Delaware. • The Lt. Gov. is personally collecting resumes from current and former foster youth to help match them with employers. He is also working to establish a relationship with an auto insurance provider to ease the costs for current and former foster youth. • The Transitions Working Group, through Kind to Kids, successfully completed a pilot life skills course for 14 and 15 year olds to help with the transition to adulthood. In 2013, this program will be expanded.
The Employment Working Group is currently creating a mentorship/internship program with employers from around the state and has successfully matched one youth with Dover Downs so far. It will officially kick off in 2013. In addition, the group is working to create an employment resource page geared to youth and service providers, housed on DYOI’s website (www.dyoi.org). • The Financial Literacy and Capability Working Group is establishing Opportunity PassportTM in Delaware, starting in 2013. This program’s goal is to give youth the tools they need to manage finances and capitalize on the banking system by providing access to personal debit accounts, matched savings accounts, and other “door openers” that support educational, training, and vocational opportunities.
Opportunity PassportTM • Designed to organize resources and create opportunities for young people leaving foster care. The Opportunity Passport program is a tool with three related components: • Personal debit account to be used to pay for short-term expenses. • Matched savings account, also known as an Individual Development Account (IDA), to be used for specific assets, such as education expenses, insurance and housing down payments/deposits. • Door Openers, a host of opportunities to be developed on a local basis. Examples in other sites have included pre-approval for registration for community college courses or reduced insurance rates or accessible transportation options. • The Opportunity Passport program helps participants learn financial management; obtain experience with the banking system; save money for education, insurance, health care, and other specified expenses; and gain streamlined access to educational, training, and vocational opportunities.
How Can You Help? • Through research, creating healthy relationships with adults during a foster youth’s adolescent years will help the youth cope with bad things that have occurred in their lives, i.e. mentorship, positive role models, etc. • Join one of the Community Partnership Board Working Groups. • Sign up to receive DYOI’s email newsletter. • Continued support of upcoming legislation that affects youth transitioning from child welfare.
For More Information Contact: Julie Miller Coordinator 302-658-7174 ext. 16 firstname.lastname@example.org Amanda Brennan Youth Advisor 302-658-7174 ext 35 email@example.com Or visit our website at www.dyoi.org