Press Release

Press Release: Launch of life-changing program for homeless youth in New Jersey

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 11, 2023 

Young People at Risk for Homelessness Enter New Housing, Education, and Employment Program

Transformative New Partnership between NJ DCF and First Place for Youth 

New Jersey (October 11, 2023) – A groundbreaking new partnership between First Place for Youth and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJ DCF) has launched that will support youth ages 18-21 transitioning from foster care with stable housing opportunities, wraparound support, education, living skills, and employment. 

The partnership officially commenced in July, and the goal is to extend My First Place™ services statewide, thereby improving outcomes, and enhancing the lives of hundreds of transition-age foster care and homeless youth.  

“With a shared commitment to fostering positive change, this partnership signifies a momentous step toward amplifying education and employment opportunities for young people, while connecting them to safe, stable housing,” said Kerry-Anne Henry, Assistant Director of NJ DCF’s Office of Housing. “We’re excited to bring to life recommendations that we’ve heard directly from young people engaged with the system as they help us to redesign services in a meaningful way.”   

According to the Rutgers School of Social Work, as of December 2022, there were 2,946 children and young adults from various New Jersey communities living in out-of-home placements. This includes 228 youth 18 to 21. As they age out of traditional foster care and into young adulthood, transition-age youth are incredibly vulnerable to housing and food instability, engagement with law enforcement, a lack of formal post-secondary educational or employment avenues, and unplanned parenthood. Through careful collaboration and transformative partnership, NJ DCF and First Place for Youth will empower and support transition-age youth to overcome many of these challenges. 

In late October 2023, transition-age youth (ages 18-21) enrolled in the My First Place™ program in New Jersey will move into their own living space, focusing on education and employment goals while building a sense of possibility and community. Program participants will be supported in identifying educational goals and gaining experience in jobs that build pathways to living-wage employment and high-growth career fields. 

First Place for Youth has had immense success in helping support transition age youth with their comprehensive, data-driven programs. Founded in California in 1998, the organization has helped tens of thousands of transition-age youth obtain stable housing, achieve educational milestones, and ultimately secure a path toward financial stability and career growth. Among the organization’s fiscal year outcomes in 2023:  

  • 92% of My First Place participants achieved stable housing at program exit, in stark contrast to the 40% of former foster youth who experienced homelessness by age 24; 
  • While only 20% of foster youth who graduate from high school attend college, 73% of eligible MFP youth attend post-secondary education while being supported in the program; 
  • And while only 29% of foster youth are employed after exiting foster care, 80% of MFP youth obtained employment while in the program. 

Beginning in 2017, First Place began scaling its My First Place model through affiliate partnerships with organizations outside of California including in Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio. 

“This newest venture in New Jersey represents an amazing opportunity for First Place to positively impact the lives of young people in New Jersey,” said Thomas Lee, CEO of First Place. “We’re looking forward to partnering with Volunteers of America–Greater New York and Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen in this important work.” 

Selected by NJ DCF, Volunteers of America–Greater New York and Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen will implement this initiative in Union County and Middlesex and Somerset Counties, respectively. The program’s holistic approach is anticipated to positively impact the lives of 60 youth in the first year of its inception. 

First Place will provide extensive in-person support, training, and guidance to individual sites, culminating in the anticipated program launch and the first young adults moving into housing by the end of October 2023. 

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First Place for Youth is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting foster youth in their transition to adulthood. By providing comprehensive programs and services, including housing, education, employment, and support, First Place for Youth empowers foster youth to overcome the unique challenges they face and achieve their full potential. 

The New Jersey Department of Children and Families is the state’s first Cabinet-level agency devoted exclusively to serving and supporting at-risk children and families. It is made up of about 6,600 staff who are focused on and committed to assisting and empowering residents to be safe, healthy and connected. This is done with an array of evidence-based, family-centered programs and services that are provided through a robust network of community providers using work-practices that incorporate racial equity, are healing centered and utilize a protective factors framework. 

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Metuchen is driven by Catholic social teaching to provide quality services with dignity and respect to the poor, vulnerable and all people in need. They partner with families and communities to improve the quality of life. Their vision is to be a vibrant, dynamic agency dedicated to helping all individuals and families reach their full potential while advocating for a more just and compassionate society. 

Volunteers of America-Greater New York (VOA-Greater New York) is an anti-poverty organization with a rich 125-year history of serving their neighbors in need. Their vision is fueled by their experience as a leading provider of services to families and individuals experiencing homelessness in the greater New York area. Through 66 programs located in New York City, Northern New Jersey, and Westchester County—including emergency shelters, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing—they deliver services to more than 11,000 adults and children annually.  

MEDIA CONTACT: 
First Place for Youth 
Jayme Catalano, Director of Communications 
(415) 295-6199 
Jcatalano@firstplaceforyouth.org

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