Samaritas is pleased to announce the expansion of our Independent Living Plus (ILP) programs throughout the state of Michigan!
Each year, there are more than 13,000 children in foster care in Michigan at any given time. As the largest foster care and adoption licensee in the State of Michigan, Samaritas annually serves nearly 1,500 of these vulnerable youth.
Samaritas’ foster care program works with youth in foster care, their birth parents, related family members, and foster families, to create an environment that ensures permanency, safety, and the well-being of every child. However, despite our best efforts, many remain in foster care well into their teen years and eventually age out without achieving a permanent home and support system. Nationwide, nearly 25,000 youth “age out” of foster care annually, and in Michigan, that number has climbed to over 1,000 according to the most recent data available. Most are woefully unprepared to succeed on their own with limited support in finding housing, achieving financial literacy, or understanding funding options to continue their education.
Foster youth who age out of foster care without proper supports face challenges and negative cycles that affect their potential to achieve a bright future. This graphic from the Jim Casey Youth Organization highlights the dire consequences for these youth.
This year, Samaritas has opened five new ILP homes designed to support foster youth ages 16-19 years old who are preparing to exit foster care. With a total of nine homes for domestic youth and three homes for refugee youth, Samaritas can now serve 60 youth in Michigan with this specialized program. The new homes, located in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Flint, and two homes in Kalamazoo, have increased our reach to provide youth transitioning to adulthood both services and support that will empower them to make strong, informed choices, transforming their lives to create bright futures.
The Independent Living Plus program is an innovative program offering a staff supported peer home environment for up to 12 months. The selection process includes an essay, in-person interview and recommendations. Youth targeted to participate are those that demonstrate a capacity for and willingness to learn critical skills to improve their opportunities for success. Youth entering this program must demonstrate initiative and commitment toward individual goals, must exhibit maturity in self-care and personal judgement and must agree to attend school and or be actively employed. In addition to specialized case managers, youth will work with staff in the home that function as mentors and will have access to weekly sessions with a life coach.
This program sets out to increase the life skills for foster youth that will increase stability and well-being as they establish themselves as independent adults within their communities. After successful completion of this program, participants will be able to demonstrate increased knowledge of financial literacy with better ability to budget their income and create an individual financial plan that helps sustain their goals. The program highlights employment and educational options available to these youth so that they can actively stay engaged in a career path that will lead them to a better future. In a time when affordable housing is so difficult to find, this program arms youth with the resources they need to find safe, quality housing. The program also gives youth an opportunity to build positive connections with peers, staff and caring community members who assist them in building a healthy circle of support for their future as they branch out on their own. Matters relating to health and well-being are also addressed to further support in building healthy relationships and self-care aspects such as proper nutrition, and good mental, physical and sexual health.
Samaritas believes offering these ILP programs serves as an investment in a vulnerable population that holds enormous potential for success. When teens are given the tools to succeed, they become active, contributing members of their community and are able to bring their unique gifts, experiences, and resilience to inspire others to succeed as well.
As new programs open, Samaritas has had an opportunity to raise community awareness and encourage collaboration amongst other local organizations that are interested in working to build strong futures and strengthen communities all across Michigan.
For more information on the Samaritas Independent Living Plus programs and ways you can help support youth preparing to exit foster care, please visit our website www.samaritas.org or contact your local Samaritas foster care office.