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Empowering Young Lives: Updates from My First Place™ Program Launch in New Jersey 

Nearly six months ago, First Place for Youth and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJ DCF) launched a transformative partnership aimed at empowering transition-age foster youth (ages 18-21) with stable housing opportunities, wraparound support, education, living skills, and employment.

Today, we are excited to share the latest developments from the launch of our My First Place™ program in New Jersey, as implemented by our dedicated partners, Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen and Volunteers of America-Greater New York. 

Since the launch of the program, the youth enrolled in our My First Place™ program in Middlesex County and Somerset County have made steady strides towards independence and self-sufficiency. Five out of seven participants have demonstrated exceptional financial responsibility by submitting rent savings, collectively contributing over $1300 over the past several months.  

Moreover, the Catholic Charities Diocese of Metuchen team is making significant headway in expanding program capacity. By securing 28 out of the 30 beds needed with local property managers, we are on track to fully realize the program’s potential and serve a greater number of older foster youth in their community. 

As we work towards building a robust support network, the Catholic Charities team is leveraging Workforce Development resources to empower their young people. From accompanying youth to OneStop centers for the first time to exploring avenues for financial aid and career opportunities, every step forward is a testament to their commitment to a youth’s holistic development.  

At Volunteers of America (VOA)- Greater New York’s site in Union County, the momentum continues to build. With seven youth currently enrolled and on track to reach 15 youth by April, the team is making solid progress towards their goal of serving 30 youth by the end of the first year of the program implementation. The VOA team is almost fully staffed, with the newest Employment and Education Specialist recently joining First Place for Youth’s Community of Practice, where they had the opportunity to connect with peers nationwide and exchange insights and best practices. 

From consistent referrals to youths pursuing educational and career opportunities, the My First Place™ program’s impact is tangible and far-reaching. One program participant is already taking significant steps towards her career goals, diligently studying for her cosmetology license while exploring opportunities to enhance her skills as an esthetician.  

As we reflect on our progress expanding the My First Place™ program nationwide, we are reminded of the transformative power of collaboration and commitment in creating brighter futures for our young people. With each milestone achieved, we are one step closer to making more possible for older foster youth.

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