More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year. Many have no family, no home and nowhere to turn in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds:
- After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
- Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
- There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.
Statistics courtesy of the National Foster Youth Institute.
More than a number, label or statistic
Upbring is part of a community of organizations that believe these brave young men and women deserve the chance to live their dreams. In fact, more than 40 people representing over 20 organizations working to improve outcomes for transition-aged youth in Austin (TAY ATX) recently gathered at Upbring to participate in a Results Based Leadership session.
Upbring staff facilitated the meeting using Results Based Facilitation tools (which they learned over the past year through Lutheran Services in America seminars generously offered by the Annie E. Casey Foundation). The seminars are designed to help groups move from talk to action and hold participants accountable for advancing the work they want to accomplish.
I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this session as a new Upbring grant writer, and I?d like to share with you some takeaways I learned in the process:
- Austin, Texas is a compassionate city full of people who have child welfare at heart. TAY ATX works together to help bridge gaps in services and provide supports to transition-aged youth in our community through teamwork and shared knowledge.?The group is working to ensure that all 150,000 youth transitioning to adulthood in Travis County are stably housed, engaged in school and/or work, and socially connected.
- While all youth need support, some groups are especially vulnerable:
- Homeless youth
- Opportunity youth (youth 16-24 who are neither in school nor working)
- Youth aging out (youth who exit foster care at age 18 without having been adopted, reunified with family, or choosing to extend foster care to age 21)
- Incredible programs have been established to help transition-aged youth, which include Upbring?s BeREAL program. The program empowers youth who have ?aged out? of the foster care system upon their 18th birthdays to become self-sufficient and engaged adults. BeREAL staff work intensively with each participant to develop and achieve personal and professional goals, and provide housing and financial assistance.? BeREAL has sites in Austin, San Antonio, and San Marcos.
- The need to support transition-aged youth is great. There were nearly 15,000 opportunity youth who were not in school/work, hundreds of homeless youth, and over 50 youth who aged out of foster care in Travis County last year.
- It?s essential to know what works! While providing services to youth, it?s essential that these services be evidence-based, research-informed, and/or data-driven. That is why Upbring provides direct services and engages in research to integrate best practices in child welfare into our programs. These research endeavors are underpinned by our commitment to generating the data necessary to drive strategic refinements to existing programs, as well as to launch new initiatives that will improve outcomes for youth and families.
- Sometimes leaders must develop new data to address knowledge gaps. During the session, I found myself thinking about the Texas Youth Permanency Study, the first longitudinal cohort study to track outcomes for Texas youth in foster care as they exit the child welfare system to become adopted, reunify with family, or age out. This data will enable Upbring and other child welfare stakeholders to further improve outcomes for transition-aged youth.
- Leaders have a bias toward action. What I really appreciated about this particular way of running meetings ? adopting targets, exploring strategies, and making action commitments ? is that it cultivates action, and it drives a shift in mindset from acknowledging problems to making change happen.
- Strategic partnerships are essential to making it happen. Upbring?s Strategic Alliance Partners are changing the way we work and raising the standard in abuse prevention. It was inspiring to see our partners Austin Community College, Goodwill Central Texas, and the Texas Institute for Child & Family Wellbeing working alongside other TAY ATX colleagues to achieve results.
?I feel like from this meeting there is hope for the future of youth in foster care.?- Anaya Tegroen
- One of the most important voices you can have in the room is the voice of someone with lived experience. I had the pleasure of meeting Anaya Tegroen, the 19-year-old Ambassador for Lifeworks, who shared her understandings of the child welfare world and offered creative, intuitive suggestions for the group to consider pursuing as their ?next steps.? Afterward, I was able to sit down and speak with Miss Tegroen further about her initial feelings about the Results Based Leadership session. She expressed the inspiration I could also feel as a participant in this lively room of advocates, researchers, foundation members, and youth service providers – ?I feel like from this meeting, there is hope for the future of youth in foster care.?
About the author
Jacie Minnick (pictured on the left in the photo above) is a grant writer and member of the Upbring external relations team. Jacie recently relocated to Austin from Indiana, where she attended Hanover College (Go Panthers!). Off the clock, Jacie and her husband Jerry enjoy exploring all the things that make Austin unique, including dining at quirky restaurants, catching the latest highly acclaimed movie, and supporting the local Pug rescue mission.