Editor's Note: Learn more about Oklahoma City kids aging out of the foster system in this feature.
Oklahoma Department of Human Services officials recently announced a partnership between public and private agencies to help support older kids as they age out of foster care.
Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger and Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake announced earlier this month a partnership with nonprofit Youth Villages and the Sue Ann Arnall Family Foundation.
“In times of tight state budgets like Oklahoma is facing, it has become critical for our state agencies to find innovative ways to provide core services,” Doerflinger said in the press release. “This partnership will serve as an exciting model of what is possible when private philanthropic organizations team up with government to achieve common goals and missions. Investment into this teen population not only benefits them, but benefits their families for generations and Oklahoma communities.”
Countless foster teens age out of the system in Oklahoma City each year and never reunite with their families or get adopted. Officials understand the importance of family connections and the new partnership aims to assist these teens in challenges they face when they age out. The YVLifeSet program is the first statewide, comprehensive approach to help youth aging out of foster care.
Through this program, teens in foster care will be connected to Youth Villages’ specialists who work one-on-one, the press release said, helping each young person develop the skills they need to be independent adults and connect to existing programs and services that are available to them from a variety of different agencies in communities around the state. YVLifeSet specialists will continue to work with the teens and be available to them up to age 22.
According to the report, the program will cost $12.7 million to make available statewide over the next five years. During that time, DHS will contribute 64 percent of the program costs using targeted federal funds, while private funders contribute 36 percent.
The Arnall Family Foundation has committed $4.8 million directly to support Youth Villages programs in Oklahoma, with $2.8 million targeted to support the launch of YVLifeSet over the next five years. Youth Villages is actively securing additional local and national funding partners for the initiative.
The press release also reports YVLifeSet will gradually expand to serve young people across the state. DHS began contracting with Youth Villages in July to provide the program in Oklahoma City. The program will be expanded to Tulsa in January and to Enid and Lawton in 2018. By the fifth year, the plan calls for the program to be serving 192 youth per day statewide, effectively making the program available to all youth aging out in the state. DHS plans to continue providing the services after the five-year statewide rollout.
[To learn more about becoming a foster parent and find volunteer opportunities to support foster children, visit www.metrofamilymagazine.com/foster.]