Older Youth Program
The Older Youth Program incorporates the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999, a federal legislation, which introduced the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program in each state and encompasses philosophy through positive youth development and the distinct permanency needs of adolescents. Three services are provided through the Older Youth Program: The John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program services are being provided by a contractor or Community Partnership. Transitional Living Services are housing options and are also being provided through contracted agencies. Independent Living Arrangements are also encompassed in the Older Youth Program.
National statistics indicate about 20,000 youth emancipate from the foster care system each year when they reach age eighteen. These young people leave without emotional or financial support that families provide. Many of these youth are not adequately prepared for life on their own. Turning eighteen may mean the beginning of a long and solitary journey toward adulthood if they have no one to turn to for help or support.
Young people who have left foster care say the immediate struggle for day-to-day survival after leaving care makes planning for a good future very difficult. To safeguard the well-being of youth making this transition, a continuum of support and preparation must begin when the youth enters out-of-home care. The Act enables the division to provide time-limited services and financial assistance to help these young adults as they develop the skills and education needed to move successfully into self-sufficiency and independence.
OYP services should not be used as a substitute for sound permanency planning. In this context, independent living services do not constitute a permanency goal, but form a set of services provided to older youth to assist them in their efforts in reaching self-sufficiency. Independent Living is not an alternative to adoption for youth. Enrollment in the Older Youth Program shall occur concurrently with continued efforts to locate and achieve placement in adoptive families. The youth’s case goal should be driven by his/her individualized case plan.
- To identify youth who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18 and to help these youth make the transition to self-sufficiency by providing services. These services may include, but are not limited to: assistance in obtaining a high school diploma, career exploration, vocational training, job placement and retention, training in daily living skills, training in budgeting and financial management skills, substance abuse prevention, and preventive health activities (including smoking avoidance, nutrition education, and pregnancy prevention).
- To assist youth who are likely to remain in foster care until 18 years of age receive the education, training, and services necessary to obtain employment;
- To assist youth who are likely to remain in foster care until 18 years of age prepare for and enter post-secondary training and education institutions;
- To provide independent living services to youth who after age 16 or older, leave foster care for adoption or guardianship.
- To provide personal and emotional support to youth aging out of foster care, through mentors and the promotion of interactions with dedicated adults;
- To provide financial, housing, counseling, employment, education, and other appropriate support and services to former foster youth, who left care on or after age 17.5 and have not yet reached age 21 to complement their own efforts to achieve self-sufficiency and to assure that program participants recognize and accept their personal responsibility in preparing for and making the successful transition from adolescence to adulthood; and
- To make available vouchers for education and training, including post-secondary learning and education, to youth who have aged out of foster care.
- Youth, ages 14-21, currently in the legal custody of the Division and in out-of-home placement;
- Youth, who exited legal custody of the Division on or after the age of 17.5 but have not yet reached age 21.
- Youth, who after age 16 or older, leave foster care for adoption or guardianship.
The following is a list of services that are available, but it is not intended as a restrictive list:
- Soft skills focusing on healthy relationship building and self-esteem.
- Training in daily living skills, budgeting and financial management.
- Assistance in obtaining a high school diploma.
- Training and employment services, job placement and retention.
- Career exploration.
- Vocational training, or preparation for post secondary training.
- Preventive health activities (i.e., smoking avoidance, substance abuse and pregnancy prevention).
- Mentors or significant adults.
- Crisis intervention funds (rent and utilities, food)
- Financial, housing, and other appropriate supports and services for young people 18-21 formerly in foster care.