First Place believes in creating a world in which involvement in the foster care system does not limit the opportunity to thrive in adulthood. So it’s always exciting when young people see their dreams made reality through their own hard work and the support of their First Place team. Especially in graduation season when we have the pleasure of celebrating with our young people who’ve earned high school diplomas, career certificates, and college degrees.
But our work has always had a dual focus on empowering individual young people towards independence and broader collaborative efforts to change the systems that so deeply influence their lives. This newsletter shares the work we undertake with partners across the country that aims to help the 25,000 young adults who age out of foster care each year.
In 2017, when we launched our My First Place™ Network, we aimed to help providers outside California expand the housing, education, employment, and support options available to young adults aging out of foster care. Today, that network has evolved into a learning and practice community committed to removing the complex barriers foster youth face in becoming self-sufficient, empowered adults.
The Class of 2021 At First Place for Youth
High School Diplomas
Industry Recognized Certificates
We’re pleased to turn the spotlight on our network partners month with updates on their work and impact.
Testing New Tools for Quality Care
Hopewell, Inc., Boston, Massachussets
As the first organization to join the My First Place Network, Boston’s Hopewell, Inc. has been a key collaborator in offering My First Place™ programming to young adults outside of California since 2017. Now, they’re once again taking a leading role in advancing learnings across our network as they become the first partner to implement First Place’s Youth Roadmap Tool to analyze aggregate program data, enhancing outcomes overall and for individual participants.
Hopewell staff will use the Youth Roadmap Tool’s precision analytics to help guide individual participant’s goals and progress and to track overall program outcomes in real time. Just as importantly, Hopewell’s implementation of the tool will help First Place evaluate its efficacy and relevance, and to refine our understanding of how diverse characteristics, services, locations, and goals impact young people’s ability to launch self-sustaining, living-wage careers.
WHAT IS THE YOUTH ROADMAP TOOL?
An innovative decision support tool developed by First Place and BCT Partners, the Youth Roadmap Tool leverages First Place participant data and predictive modeling to guide social workers in identifying and delivering the appropriate individualized services and interventions that help youth progress toward living-wage employment.
The landscape of child welfare has changed immeasurably in recent years, but Children‘s Village, our partner in New York City, has helped champion the rights of children over the course of its 170-year history. In a new milestones video, participants share their program experiences, and staff of the former orphanage reflect on the complex realities fostered and orphaned youth faced in the past. They share how that history informs their mission to promote family well-being today. With its focus on giving young people leaving foster care tools for lasting stability and self-sufficiency, Children’s Village has made the My First Place program a new, empowering pathway to end generational cycles of poverty and involvement in child welfare systems.
CIDNEY'S MY FIRST PLACE STORY
“Right away, I felt welcome and safe,” said Cidney on the experience of moving from couch surfing to his My First Place apartment with The Children’s Village. “Because I felt safe, I no longer had to be on alert and I could think about other things. After COVID hit, it was hard. But Ms. Carla [social worker] taught me strategies to get over the ‘what ifs,’ to get outside, to go for a walk or get some exercise instead of sitting indoors and worrying.”
Bringing Data and Youth Stakeholders To the Table
State of Mississippi & the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Since 2018, First Place has worked in collaboration with the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services and the Annie E. Casey Foundation with its Mississippi Youth Voice program to help foster youth approach their transitions to adulthood and independence. A principal focus of this work is to bring young people to the table as active participants in their own care and in creating system-wide solutions to benefit all foster youth. First Place has also led comprehensive social workers’ trainings and partnered with the state and the foundation to integrate youth voices and enhanced data collection into service delivery. That work has empowered Mississippi foster youth by offering new opportunities to directly engage in advocacy and build leadership skills.
So, we are thrilled to announce that Jamiesun Vaughn, 19, has been selected to represent Mississippi in the 2021 class of the Jim Casey Youth Leadership Institute. The national Institute offers current and former foster youth opportunities to further develop their personal leadership and advocacy skills and build relationships with other advocates on a broad range of issues impacting youth as they transition from foster care. Upon completing the Youth Leadership Institute, Jamiesun will have the option to join the Jim Casey Fellowship, a national network of young leaders with foster care experience who partner with Annie E. Casey Foundation staff and consultants to develop and advance national strategies to ensure young people transitioning from foster care are better off.
A New Name for Our New Partner
New Path, in Hamilton County, Ohio
Last week, after nearly two centuries of service in Ohio, our newest partner, St. Joseph Orphanage announced a newly branded name: NewPath Child and Family Services. The name change reflects the organization’s evolution from a church-based orphanage to an independent nonprofit providing wide-ranging services to improve the lives of youth and families and create lasting change.
When NewPath joined the My First Place Network in 2020, it had no way to know that its program implementation would be colored by a pandemic. But the upheaval caused by COVID-19 highlighted how vital a safe place to call home and a strong support system truly is for young people entering adulthood. In the first year as My First Place providers, NewPath provided much-needed care and stability to 12 young people, and two program participants persisted in their education plans and graduated from high school despite the challenges of remote learning.