What happens to youth when they age out of Virginia’s foster care system? Research proves when youth are no longer supported by the traditional foster care system, they are “at-risk” for devastating outcomes. To combat these devastating outcomes, we partnered with The Better Housing Coalition to create My Path Forward, a program that provides housing and wrap-around services for aged out youth in Virginia.
My Path Forward ensures these at-risk youth are getting ahead in life and achieving the independence they seek.
Keep reading to learn more about this program’s history, our collaborative partners, and how you can help.
My Path Forward | Then & Now
Each year, hundreds of Virginia youth age out of the foster care system without being adopted. Virginia has the highest percentage of aged-out youth in the United States. Like most 18-year olds, these youth are not prepared to be fully on their own. Their challenges are also compounded by histories of abuse, abandonment, and instability.
Children’s Home Society of Virginia believed we must do better for our aged-out foster youth, which is why we created My Path Forward. Formerly The Possibilities Project, My Path Forward was founded in 2015 in collaboration with The Better Housing Coalition to provide aged out youth in Virginia with the crucial supports, housing, and stability they need to become successful and productive members of their communities.
My Path Forward serves young adults ages 17-25 who have aged out of foster care. It provides high-quality, evidence-based services, setting, and policies to support and empower this population to be engaged and productive members of their community. The end goal is for each young adult to achieve independence and build healthy, permanent connections with adults who will provide a lifetime of guidance.
Today, there are two branches of our innovative program:
- My Path Forward
- My Path Forward-Independent Living Arrangement (IRA)
My Path Forward is a housing program for young adults typically 21-25 who are prepared to transition into a more independent lifestyle while utilizing case management and life skills coaching to reach their aspirations.
My Path Forward-ILA serves young adults 20 and under. It is a more structured program with increased supervision and more intensive services. The goal with this program is that each youth reach independence and learn to successfully navigate the complex world of adulthood.
My Path Forward | Why it Works
The strength of both subsets of this program lies in the focus on the unique needs and goals of the participants. Our individualized case management and life coaching are provided through a trauma-focused lens that allows the staff to understand the behaviors, emotions, and needs of the youth.
Each program participant has access to critical basics including transportation, medical and mental health services, life skills training, emergency funds, and essential living items. To ensure a smooth transition into independence, each youth is coached as they pursue their educational, career, and personal goals.
We further engage our program participants by encouraging their input into the program design and empowering them to advocate for systemic social service change.
My Path Forward | The Need & Aging Out Statistics
When youth age out of foster care, they face grim realities.
- 1 in 4 will be incarcerated within two years.
- 1 in 5 will be homeless within two years.
- Fewer than 1 in 6 will graduate from high school.
- As a whole, they will face higher rates of unemployment, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, and domestic violence.
- As a whole, they will also face being pulled back into the dysfunctional biological family that agrees to house them again because they have nowhere else to turn.
My Path Forward invests in youth aging out of foster care and changes the trajectory of their lives.
My Path Forward | Collaborative Partners
We are fortunate enough to have many amazing collaborative partners who help make this program possible!
Inner Self Counseling and Consulting, LLC
Dr. Lakesha Roney and her team provide therapy services, clinical groups, and clinical assessments for our participants.
They also work with us to provide flexible schedules including evenings and weekends so our residents can always have access to a therapist based around their school and work schedules.
De’ja Coley provides financial consulting services and workshops for our participants, specifically centered around “the psychology of spending,” which helps our participants connect the dots between their trauma and their money management habits.
Project Life also works to ensure partnership opportunities and resources for independent living providers throughout the Commonwealth of VA.
The United Way provides us with free LYFT codes for our participants to travel to and from their doctor and employment appointments.
Mt. Olivet Baptist Church and Gayton Baptist Church are two other important collaborative partners. Both churches generously supply items for our food pantry as well as other household items for the program.
We want to extend a huge thank you to all our collaborative partners who help us empower the lives of these youth!
Get Involved | Support Virginia Adoption
If you want to get involved, there are several ways you can help!
Firstly – you can sign up to be a member of the Friends of My Path Forward to receive the latest updates and news about the progress of the youth enrolled in the My Path Forward program. You will learn timely ways you can help current participants.
Thirdly, you can donate items. Participants in My Path Forward have a need for various items throughout the year like toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap, sponges, bed sets, sheets, towels, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, and more. View the wishlist here.
Lastly, you can consider giving financially. Here are some ways we put your gifts to work:
- One month of counseling support for a young person who has aged out of foster care.
- One year of internet access for two youth to enable them to complete school work and apply for jobs.
- One year of basic needs and emergency expenses for a young person transitioning into adulthood.
- One year of books and school supplies for a young college student.
- One year of support with emergency car repairs for two young people.
- One year of groceries for a young person learning smart shopping and budgeting.
- One year of counseling support for a young person becoming an adult.
- One year of utilities and internet access for two young people completing their education and learning to become independent adults.
- Warm winter coats, hats, and gloves for 10 young people transitioning into adulthood.
- One year of vocational training for a young person learning a trade and independence.
Every dollar makes a difference in the life of a youth!
2023 Annual Celebration at Main Line Brewery
We want to invite you to our annual celebration! Please join us Thursday, May 11, 2023 at Main Line Brewery for our annual event to celebrate CHSVA’s many accomplishments and provide support for an even brighter future! Last year’s event drew in almost 300 people from our community, all of whom showed up to support our mission of building strong, permanent families and lifelong relationships for Virginia’s at-risk youth. Learn more about the event and how to buy tickets here.