New Initiative Launched for Teens and Young Adults in Foster Care
CLEVELAND, OHIO −The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS)and Big Brothers Big Sisters are teaming up to launch a new initiativeto help teenagers and young adults who have been in foster care transition more successfully to adulthood.“Connecting the Dots from Foster Care to Employment and Independent Living” will break down silos and bring together foster care case workers from Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, staff from Employment Connection Youth Programs (a program partnership between the City of Cleveland/Cuyahoga County Workforce Investment Act and Towards Employment), and mentors from Big Brothers Big Sisters with the goal of helping teens in foster care prepare for work, vocational training or college, and independent living.
"Cuyahoga County has great expectations for this partnership. Connecting the Dotsis a great opportunity to connect teens in foster care with great people and organizations who can help them achieve their educational and employment goals, while decreasing the negative outcomes often connected with teens who have experienced foster care,” said Joe Jackson of the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services. “Many of our teens experience tremendous barriers to success as they enter adulthood. Opportunities like this one can give them the tools, experiences, and connections they need to be able to compete."
For younger teenagers still in foster care,Connecting the Dotswill offer mentoring, educational supports, and work readiness training, so that if they do turn 18 before finding permanent homes, they will be better prepared for life on their own. For older teenagers and young adults, it will offer improved independent living and employment services so that they will have more support, more guidance, more connections and more knowledge as they transition to work, vocational training or college, and independent living.
“We are excited to be teaming up with Cuyahoga County and other Ohio Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies to support foster care youth in our community,” said Gretchen Faro of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland. “Foster care youth face many additional challenges in life, and our community needs to mobilize to help them beat the odds and prepare for a successful future.”
Approximately 1,000 to 1,300 young people in Ohioage out of foster care each year. Nationally,81 percent of males formerly in foster care are arrested by age 24, 48 percent of females become pregnant by age 19, 33 percent of former foster youth have household incomes below the poverty level, 25 percent have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (compared to 15 percent of Vietnam War veterans), and 22 percent have experienced homelessness. In fact, 40 percent of America’s adult homeless population spent some time in foster care. By providing better support to the24,000 young people nationally who age out of foster care each year, it is estimated that more than $5.7 billion could be saved over their lifetime.
Connecting the Dotswill operate as a Temporary Assistance for Needy Families demonstration project at five pilot locations: Cuyahoga, Lake, Summit and Hamilton counties, and a collaborative including Montgomery, Preble, Clinton and Greene counties. Best practices learned in the pilot counties will be shared with counties across the state.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland is seeking community volunteers to mentor foster care youth in our community, to help prepare them for work, vocational training or college and independent living. For information, please contact: Pat Fauskey at 216.452.5222 or inquire online atwww.wementoryouth.org.
On July 25, ODJFS will sponsor the second annual “Connecting the Dots Conference for Foster Care Teens and Young Adults.” Last year’s inaugural conference brought together200 young people from across the state and featured seminars on employment, higher education, legal rights and personal health.