A COLLABORATION BETWEEN CHILDREN’S HOME SOCIETY OF VIRGINIA AND THE BETTER HOUSING COALITION
The Possibilities Project is a new initiative of Children’s Home Society of Virginia, a 116-year-old adoption agency committed to building lifelong relationships for at-risk youth, and the Better Housing Coalition, a community development organization that provides high-quality, affordable housing and helps build vibrant communities.
This new initiative empowers youth ages 18 to 25 who have aged out of Virginia’s foster care system without being adopted. The Possibilities Project provides these young people with critical supports and housing, and assists them as they develop into independent and engaged community members.
In addition to safe, stable housing, we provide case management, life coaching through a trauma informed lens and mentoring — and networks to build supportive, permanent connections with adults. Each will also have access to important basics including, but not limited to; transportation, medical and mental health services, life skills training, and essential living necessities as needed. To further ensure a smooth transition into independence, each youth is mentored and coached as they pursue their education and career goals, and as they take on a variety of advocacy, service, and leadership opportunities.
A TRANSFORMATIONAL OPPORTUNITY FOR THE RICHMOND REGION AND BEYOND
The Possibilities Project will invest in youth aging out of foster care and change the trajectory of their lives. The two-phased initiative will develop and provide the best services, settings, and policies to support and lift this vulnerable population. For Phase One, we are conducting a study of how other states are successfully addressing the challenges faced by these young people, while concurrently launching a research-based demonstration project to provide local young people with housing and critical trauma-informed wraparound social supports. For Phase Two, we have developed a permanent housing and best-practices-based support program to serve as a replicable model for this region, Virginia, and other states around the country.
500 CHILDREN “AGE OUT” OF VIRGINIA FOSTER CARE EACH YEAR
Each year, about 500 young people “age out” of Virginia’s foster care system and are sent into the world with nothing—no permanent housing, no job options, no education, no transportation, and no life skills. Like most 18-year-olds, they’re not prepared to be fully on their own. Their challenges are compounded by histories of abuse, abandonment, and instability. The outcomes are devastating. Within two years, 1 in 4 will be incarcerated, 1 in 5 will be homeless, and fewer than 1 in 6 graduate from high school. They also face higher rates of unemployment, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, domestic violence, and more. Virginia is ranked 50th of the 50 states for the rate children age out of foster care.
PHASE ONE: CREATING A BEST-PRACTICE MODEL DESIGNED FOR VIRGINIA
We are working with Child Trends, a nationally recognized research firm, to survey programs and policies across the country addressing the plight of youth who age out of foster care. Our goal is to identify best practices that will have the most impact on improving the lives of Virginia’s at-risk children. The research will be the basis to develop, prioritize, and promote systemic changes to ensure Virginia’s human service policies are updated in alignment with best practices—to ultimately improve services for these at-risk young adults. The best-practice findings will also be incorporated into our demonstration project. The demonstration project is unique in that it takes a trauma-informed approach to services and is permanency focused—it will address the young peoples’ emotional health as well as their critical need for lifelong connections.
The goal is for each young person to achieve independence and acquire healthy, permanent connections to adults who will provide a lifetime of support and guidance.
We will further engage our demonstration project participants by encouraging their input into the program design and empowering them to advocate for systemic social service change to move Virginia out of last place in the nation.
PHASE TWO: A REPLICABLE MODEL CUSTOM-SUITED TO SUCCEED IN VIRGINIA
The ultimate goal of this initiative is to create a replicable program model based on best practices and custom-suited to succeed within Virginia’s governance and regulatory structures. We will lead the development of a permanent housing facility that can be replicated in this region, across Virginia, and the rest of the country.
TRANSFORMING THE LIVES OF VIRGINIA CHILDREN WHO “AGE OUT”
Opening doors to youth aging out of foster care will make a positive, life-changing impact and create a new path to possibilities for these at-risk young people.