Stanislaus County officials are reporting success with a program that extends services to foster youths after they turn 18.
A California law enacted in 2010 provides for additional services for young people who graduate from traditional foster care. For years, scholars found alarming rates of unemployment, homelessness and criminal arrests among young people who were on their own after aging out of foster care.
Children separated from their birth parents because of abuse or neglect are often placed with multiple foster parents or spend time in group homes, where they don’t learn the skills for thriving as adults.
The county’s extended program helps these young people obtain housing, attend college, learn job skills and start living independently. The services are provided until they are 21.
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The county began its effort in 2012 in collaboration with local, state and federal agencies, foster parents, nonprofit groups and faith-based organizations. It was soon regarded as a model program, drawing a visit in September from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau.
Nenita Dean, a child welfare manager for the county, has provided assistance to other states that are starting extended foster care programs. The Stanislaus program also was presented at a national youth development conference.
So far, 140 foster youth have taken advantage of the services in Stanislaus County. In the first year, 33 of them finished high school, almost four times the number who earned diplomas in the previous year.
In 2013, 16 went on to attend vocational or other post-secondary schools. More than 40 of the young people were living in their own apartments last year and 15 had entered the workforce. Seven were in classes at Modesto Junior College and three were attending a university.
The five young adults who were preparing to complete the program last month had high school diplomas; four were living in their own apartments and one was in the Job Corps.
The Board of Supervisors recognized the program last month as an effective partnership between county departments and social service agencies. The community partners include AspiraNet, Center for Human Services, Family Justice Center, Family Resource Centers, Foster Parent Association and Project Yes.
“I think we are recognized for our strong partnerships,” said Jan Viss, county director of child and family services. “We have built a good program with a strong foundation for our youth.”