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Monday, August 18, 2014

Ind. Gov't. - "Aged-out foster kids get safety net" though Indiana's new Collaborative Care program

According to this long AP story by Tom Coyle:

Indiana’s Collaborative Care program, ... was started two years ago to help fill the gaps when youths turn 18 and age out of traditional foster care. The program arose from the Fostering Connections Act passed by Congress in 2008 to encourage states to extend foster youths’ benefits to age 21.

Alishea Hawkins, assistant deputy director of services and outcomes for the Indiana Department of Child Services, said the program is designed to provide financial and emotional support to help participants become self-supporting adults. Its services include helping older teenagers live on their own and providing opportunities to become more independent through programs that teach household skills, including cooking and budgeting, and life skills, such as how to apply for and keep a job.

“Many of our young people grow up in foster care where they are told what to do, when to do it and how to do it,” she said. “So many of these young people get to late adolescence, and they really don’t have the skills and abilities to make those decisions.”

The program, she said, is intended “as a replacement for that family, that social network.”

The program gives older youths in foster care more options than the state offered previously, including the chance to live on their own in apartments. They also can work with service providers to receive training they need to become independent.

Those opportunities are critical to help foster youths overcome challenges such as abuse and being moved from home to home, which can make it hard to make friends, attain academic stability and feel a sense of control, experts say.

To be eligible, youths must be in school or be working at least 80 hours a month or enrolled in a program that will help them get a job by providing money for housing and life-skills training.

Participants can live in a host home – sometimes with a relative – or in a group home, a college dorm or in an apartment with or without roommates. Case workers will walk those who want to move into an apartment through the process.

“They’ll help them with all of those pieces it takes, moving from dependency into an independent living arrangement,” Hawkins said.

David Reed, senior director of client services at The Villages of Indiana Inc., an Indianapolis-based agency that works with aged-out foster children, said the program is critical to helping those youths develop basic life skills.

“They are not prepared at age 18 to be able to go maintain an apartment and have food in their refrigerators and their pantries,” Reed said. “They need support from the state to provide those very basic things to help keep them alive.”

Hawkins said each former foster child needs different skills, so it’s up to service providers such as The Villages to develop individual plans.

The primary goal, she said, is to provide a safety net and connections so that youths “have some folks around their table, on their team, in their social network that they can rely on lifelong.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 18, 2014 08:29 AM
Posted to Indiana Government