Building a future for foster youth
Help is on the way for Placer and Nevada county youths who are leaving the foster care system and starting an independent life.
Thanks to budget changes made by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, which more than tripled the state’s investment in the foster system, both counties have been able to develop the Transitional Housing Placement-Plus Program.
The program provides affordable housing and support to 18- to 24 year olds, to help them make a successful transition from foster care into adulthood, said Cindy Brundage, program manager for Placer County’s Children’s System of Care.
The program launched earlier this spring in Placer County and has already filled 16 of the 20 slots available, Brundage said.
“So many foster youth are at risk for homelessness or even jail. They are very vulnerable and it’s hard to for them to establish themselves without the support of a caring family,” Brundage said. “This program provides housing and a complete array of supportive services to help each youth develop.”
Emancipated foster youth have to apply for the program, and upon admittance, are required to maintain an apartment, select a career path and build a savings account, Brundage said.
Elizabeth David, a 19-year-old Roseville resident, has been participating in the program since April, and said it has opened doors and created opportunities for her that she may not have had on her own.
“It gives foster youth a second chance to get their lives on track instead of ending up on the streets,” David said. “If they [Placer County] didn’t have the placement program, I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”
David is currently living on her own in Roseville with the placement plus program covering 90 percent of her rent, as well as the electric, gas and water bills for a 24-month period, she said.
David said she works 40 to 50 hours a week at a restaurant, and saves 50 percent of her paychecks to reach her savings goal of $25,000 before the two-year program is over.
“I was living in El Dorado County and was in a position of finding myself on the streets after graduation, and that’s when I found out about the program,” David said.
Another aspect of the program instructs former foster youth on how to select a career path by helping them build a resume, fill out job applications and search for a college or trade school for further their education, said Shauna Rossington, executive director of Mountain Circle Family Services.
“Sixty-five percent of kids are homeless or in jail within six months out of foster care,” Rossington said. “It will be interesting to see how this program will change those statistics in the future.”
Information provided by http://www.hopesboy.com and Whole Person Learning of Placer County
20,000: foster youth who age out of the foster care system each year
54: national percentage of foster youth who earn a high school diploma
14: percentage of foster youth in Placer County who did not receive a high school diploma in 2007
51: national percentage of foster youth who are unemployed
22: percentage of foster youth in Placer County who were unemployed in 2007
25: national percentage of foster youth who have been homeless
4: percentage of foster youth in Placer County who were homeless in 2007