Program to Help Foster Youth Aging Out Expands to Los Angeles, D.C., Illinois and Louisiana

A program to help youth aging out of foster care transition to adulthood is expanding to two more major cities and two more states, part of a national rollout financed in part by major philanthropic investment in youth services.

Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Lousiana and Illinois are the latest locations to begin implementation of YVLifeSet, a model developed by Youth Villages, a multi-state provider of child welfare and juvenile justice services.

The model links transition-aged youth with specialists who help them transition into independent adulthood. YVLifeSet specialists have small caseloads — 8 to 10 clients each — and meet with the youth at least once a week, and are available 24/7, according to Youth Villages. They help young people deal with things like securing stable housing, learning money management and establishing medical coverage. For youth aging out with children, specialists help them learn parenting skills.

The grants to these four systems, which total $10 million, are part of Youth Villages’ initiative to help ensure that every youth aging out of foster care is met with transitional services by the year 2028. The funds will be matched by other grants from local funders, according to Youth Villages.

Youth who age out of foster care without the support of a permanent family or guardian face troubling odds. They are at higher risk of experiencing homelessness and brushes with the criminal justice system, and have a harder time maintaining employment or completing college.

A 2016 study measuring the impact of YVLifeSet (then called the Transitional Living program) found that the program “can improve multiple outcomes for young adults with histories of foster care or juvenile justice custody, a notable finding given how few other programs that serve these populations have been shown to have an effect.”

Bobby Cagle, director of the Los Angeles Department of Children and Families (DCFS), highlighted that YVLifeSet’s case-plans are youth-driven. The idea is that youth set the goals, and the caseworkers help them figure out how to achieve them.

“The youth voice is essential to identifying underlying needs, establishing stability, achieving individual goals and promoting permanency,” Cagle said in a press release.

Since launching the program in 1999, Youth Villages has served more than 12,000 transitioning youth and the model is currently operational in 10 states. The organization will provide training and administrative, clinical and research support to the child welfare agencies and private providers of the winning jurisdictions as they launch the model over the next three years.

The expansion of YVLifeSet is backed by a commitment of up to $200 million over 11 years from Blue Meridian Partners, a group of large foundations convened by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. Two years ago, the group announced several big bets on expanding youth-serving programs, and has expanded its portfolio since.

The most recent wave of expansion took YVLifeset to New York City and Pittsburgh.

Youth Villages will train staff at the child welfare agencies for D.C. and Louisiana to carry out the program. Illinois will contract with three nonprofits to implement it: UCAN and Lawrence Hall in the Chicago area, and Hoyleton in the southern part of the state.

Los Angeles will work with private providers as well, but has not selected one yet.

John Kelly contributed to this article.

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New York wants to use a fund for #FamilyFirst Act prep to prevent youth from aging out of #fostercare, but some counties say the money is already spent or earmarked #childwelfare

OPINION: "The last five months have been difficult for all of us, but they have been especially harrowing for young adults from #fostercare."