Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $498,972)
Youth leaving foster care in Michigan are one of the most vulnerable populations in the state. Nearly 1,300 out of the almost 2,000 transition-age youth in foster care in Michigan every year “age out” of foster care without any support, increasing their risk of homelessness. In fact, 40 percent of Michigan youth leaving foster care will experience homelessness before the age of 21, which is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average for youth leaving care.
Holy Cross Services (HCS) proposes to launch a replicable program, called “Belong, Be Strong,” that is specifically designed to help transitioning youth develop the necessary skills, relationships, and access to resources needed for success. The program will include a clinically trained program manager and two advocates based out of HCS’s Transition Center in Saginaw, who will act as a constant support system, providing continuous outreach to transition-age youth and providers. They will also serve as liaisons between youth advisors and residential treatment programs; facilitate events, classes, advisory committees, and support groups; and coordinate with existing resources specific to youth leaving care. With Belong, Be Strong, youth in care and formerly in care will have access to a no-wrong-door policy.
HCS is experienced in operating crisis stabilization and youth transitioning housing, both of which have yielded positive outcomes across the state of Michigan. The project is designed to prioritize racial equity and equity for marginalized communities, including individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. Through this project, HCS aims to achieve OJJDP’s goal of promoting positive youth outcomes and public safety for youth transitioning from care. The project will develop, implement, and build a replicable treatment model in residential care and increase protective factors for youth leaving foster care through skill building, two of OJJDP’s objectives. Additionally, HCS will establish a system of belonging to ensure that youth leaving care have an ongoing social support system, a primary protective factor.
Deliverables for the 27-month project period include:
Serving 200 youth across mid-Michigan.
Providing 16 evidence-based life-skills courses within residential facilities and at the Transition Center.
Establishing an active and youth-led Youth Advisory Council, with activities and stipends funded by HCS.
Facilitating a minimum of 6 ongoing support groups.
Facilitating a minimum of 12 social events, one per quarter.
Developing a replication guide that includes “lessons learned” for implementation for other agencies across Michigan.