New Program to Place Former Foster Children on a Path to Self-Sufficiency

GreenLight Fund Cincinnati and Hamilton County Job and Family Services are teaming up to bring First Place for Youth to Cincinnati. First Place for Youth is an innovative program aimed at helping foster children transition to adulthood using a youth-centered, trauma-informed approach. The program will help nearly 100 children a year in Hamilton County with housing, education and employment services.

First Place for Youth originated in California and has a proven track record in helping youth develop necessary skills for adulthood. 91 percent of participating youth are employed when they graduate form the program. The education and workforce based program uses housing as a stabilizing force. Young people in the program live independently in apartments and receive wraparound support, education services, employment services and other help to become self-sufficient. This model, which is new to Cincinnati, will be operated by an existing, local non-profit organization who will be chosen later this month.

Moira Weir, director of Hamilton County Job and Family Services, which operates the local foster care system, said approximately 100 children a year “age-out” of the foster care system at age 18 or 21, meaning they are not reunified with their biological parents or adopted by new parents. First Place for Youth anticipates helping nearly 350 young people over the next four years, 90 percent of local transition-age youth.

Weir’s organization worked with the University of Cincinnati’s Economic Center on a recent study that found children aging out of the local child welfare system eventually cost local residents $17.7 million in social expenses and lost productivity each year. Those costs are related to the youths’ involvement in the criminal justice, homeless and health care systems, as well as lost productivity because they are not employed at the same level as their peers in the general population.

“You can imagine what life is like for an 18-year-old who is suddenly on their own with no family to turn to in times of trouble,” Weir said. “Research shows these young people are more likely to drop out of school, be unemployed, suffer physical or mental health problems, become teen parents, end up in the criminal justice system – they are more likely to fall victim to a host of social problems. We are excited to supplement our existing services with this incredibly innovative program GreenLight is bringing to our community. We are grateful for a community-based approach to this problem.”

The GreenLight Fund works to improve the lives of low-income children and families by partnering with local community leaders to identify gaps in services in our community and then scours the country for innovative approaches to filling those gaps. Once a solution is found, GreenLight invests an initial $600,000 and draws on community connections to launch the solution in Cincinnati. GreenLight then measures results to ensure real change is happening.

“We are thrilled to partner with Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services to support youth aging out of foster care in our community,” says Tara Noland, GreenLight Cincinnati’s executive director. “This proven, trauma-informed and data-driven model will drastically change the future trajectory of nearly all local youth who age out of care, helping them enter adulthood successfully and ultimately become thriving members of our community.”

GreenLight Fund Cincinnati has raised $1.8 million in funding from organizations such as the Cincinnati Business Committee, the Cincinnati Regional Business Committee, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Bank of America, Duke Energy and others. Launched in 2015, it has served more than 1100 children and families through two portfolio organizations, the Center for Employment Opportunities and the Family Independence Initiative. First Place for Youth will be GreenLight’s third investment in Cincinnati.

First Place for Youth has an extensive database of outcomes that make it a proven program ideal for replicating in our city. Hamilton County Job and Family Services will match GreenLight’s initial $600,000 investment with $6.5 million in ongoing support.

by Jane Prendergast

Filed Under: News

Tagged: aging out, child abuse, child neglect, First Step Place, foster care, hamilton county department of job and family services, hamilton county job and family services, moira weir, project GreenLight, Tara Noland