This week on Capitol Hill, the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative (MYTC) played an integral role in launching Success Beyond 18, a national campaign to create a better path for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood. The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, a national partner of MYTC since 2003 and leader of Success Beyond 18, joined The Honorable Jack Markell, governor of Delaware and current chair of the National Governors Association, legislators, child welfare experts, and young people in foster care from around the country to kick off the campaign.
Approximately 26,000 individuals “age out” of the foster care system each year. In Maine, approximately 150 youth age out annually at age 18. After leaving care without a permanent home, many struggle to find housing and jobs, pay for medical care, or finish their education – costly consequences that leave a heavy burden on our communities.
“The goal of our work at the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative is to ensure that no young person leaves foster care without a supportive family and the opportunities they need to help them succeed in work, school, and life,” said Marty Zanghi, director of the MYTC. “We’re excited to be part of this important campaign to help Maine and others make this goal a reality.”
The MYTC brings communities in Maine together to help young people in foster care build better adult lives. Since 1998, the collaborative has been home to the Youth Leadership Advisory Team (YLAT), providing young people with the ability to meet administrators, legislators, and caseworkers; make recommendations for system improvement; and advocate for youth priorities in decision-making at all levels of the child welfare system. The MYTC also coordinates the York County Foster Care Collaborative and offers employment and post-secondary education supports, such as Opportunity Passport™, a matched savings program that enables youth to save for assets, such as vehicles, housing, micro-enterprise, education, or health care costs.
“Young people in our community need supports like those offered by the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative,” said Tony Cipollone, president and CEO of the John T. Gorman Foundation. “We need to ensure that this good work continues and that progress continues to build in Maine to improve the odds for young people transitioning from foster care to adult life.”
To best illustrate the experiences of youth transitioning from care, four Maine youth and their adult allies captured their own stories in a series of digital shorts. This series was unveiled Thursday, May 9, at the MYTC annual dinner, where community advocates, youth, and allies joined honored guests Rep. Ann Dorney, Rep. Dick Farnsworth, and Sen. Colleen Lachowicz to celebrate the year’s achievements and to discuss future opportunities.
At the Success Beyond 18 campaign launch, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative released a white paper documenting the urgency and opportunity for reforms needed to improve outcomes for older youth in foster care; a video PSA calling on states to take action; and a new report detailing the potential cost savings to taxpayers for acting now to increase support for young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood. The data indicate that for every young person who ages out, the social costs incurred as a result (through lost wages, public assistance, and jail time) equal $300,000 over that young person’s lifetime – or $7.8 billion in total costs to the U.S. every year. In Maine, the potential financial impact would be $45 million.
“By making changes today to improve the lives of young people in foster care, we will all see the benefits, and sooner than you think, through a more productive workforce, fewer unplanned pregnancies, lower health care costs, and reduced crime,” said Gary Stangler, executive director for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. “States are increasing their focus on the needs of young people beyond age 18. Now is the time to help them do it right and ensure that these kids are getting the same opportunities for success as their peers.”
About the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative
The Maine Youth Transition Collaborative, made up of public and private partners from across Maine, works with young people, the child welfare system, and community members to ensure that youth transitioning from the foster care system to adulthood have the resources and personal connections they need to be successful. The collaborative works with communities around Maine on the issues vital to a young person’s economic self-sufficiency, such as post-secondary education and employment. The MYTC has partnered with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative since 2003, and is directed and coordinated by staff in the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine. For more information, visit www. www.maine-ytc.org . To view the series of digital stories on youth experiences in transitioning from foster care, visit www.maine-ytc.org/maine-youth-stories/
About the Jim Case Youth Opportunities Initiative
Founded in 2001, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative is committed to improving the lives of young people transitioning from foster care to adulthood. For more information, visit www.jimcaseyyouth.org . Success Beyond 18 reports and data can be found here: www.jimcaseyyouth.org/success-beyond-18