Denver-Based Company's Innovative Aging-In-Place Homesharing Platform: $3 Million Series A Funding, Solution For Affordable Housing Crisis & Homeless Young Adults Needing Homes, Win-Win Platform

Although most of us want to stay in our homes as we age, it can become harder as the years pass.   https://blog.silvernest.com/homesharing-in-florida-why-the-sunshine-state-is-ripe-for-shared-housing    https://www.builtincolorado.com/2018/09/07/denver-silvernest-raises-3m-funding   Our children move on and out, our yard and home maintenance is never-ending, and the house seems larger and quieter. With Florida hosting nearly a quarter of the retirement-aged population in America, homesharing is a natural solution for the Sunshine State.  Why Homesharing for Florida?  With seven million people over the age of 60 expected to call Florida home in the coming years and four million Floridians supporting a post-retirement-age family member or friend, there’s a large and growing need to get creative with housing and community engagement. Homesharing through Silvernest is a simple, secure solution to support Floridians aging in place (not to mention the friends and family invested in their wellbeing).  Homesharing for Income, Around-the-House Help, and Social Good  Florida homeowners can use their largest asset—their homes— to bring in extra income, get help around the house, and fill some of those empty rooms with compatible housemates.  Bringing a housemate into your home can brighten it with new energy, and even create a positive community impact. Many homeowners choose to homeshare to provide a more affordable, secure housing option to hardworking students, teachers, public servants, and young professionals in their community.  It’s not all philanthropy, though! A housemate can be the extra set of hands around the home that makes staying home manageable, not overwhelming. By matching homeowners and renters based on compatibility—including the option to accept/pay reduced rent in exchange for help around the house—Silvernest allows both parties to create an arrangement that benefits and works for them. Homeowners across the US are using Silvernest to supplement their income an average $10,000 per year by renting out their spare rooms. At the same time, renters save an average $9,000 per year by homesharing rather than paying market rent rates.  Silvernest and SoFIA: Partnering to Educate Floridians on Homesharing  Like compatible housemates, homesharing and Florida are a match made in heaven. For all the reasons above, the Sunshine State is particularly well positioned to benefit from homesharing—and the first step is equipping homeowners with the knowledge they need to determine if homesharing is right for them. Silvernest and the South Florida Institute on Aging (SoFIA), a nonprofit focused on empowering people as they age with services, insights and education, recently announced a partnership focused on providing exactly that kind of knowledge.  You can learn more about the partnership here and reach out to community@silvernest.com to get involved.

Although most of us want to stay in our homes as we age, it can become harder as the years pass.

https://blog.silvernest.com/homesharing-in-florida-why-the-sunshine-state-is-ripe-for-shared-housing

https://www.builtincolorado.com/2018/09/07/denver-silvernest-raises-3m-funding

Our children move on and out, our yard and home maintenance is never-ending, and the house seems larger and quieter. With Florida hosting nearly a quarter of the retirement-aged population in America, homesharing is a natural solution for the Sunshine State.

Why Homesharing for Florida?

With seven million people over the age of 60 expected to call Florida home in the coming years and four million Floridians supporting a post-retirement-age family member or friend, there’s a large and growing need to get creative with housing and community engagement. Homesharing through Silvernest is a simple, secure solution to support Floridians aging in place (not to mention the friends and family invested in their wellbeing).

Homesharing for Income, Around-the-House Help, and Social Good

Florida homeowners can use their largest asset—their homes— to bring in extra income, get help around the house, and fill some of those empty rooms with compatible housemates.

Bringing a housemate into your home can brighten it with new energy, and even create a positive community impact. Many homeowners choose to homeshare to provide a more affordable, secure housing option to hardworking students, teachers, public servants, and young professionals in their community.

It’s not all philanthropy, though! A housemate can be the extra set of hands around the home that makes staying home manageable, not overwhelming. By matching homeowners and renters based on compatibility—including the option to accept/pay reduced rent in exchange for help around the house—Silvernest allows both parties to create an arrangement that benefits and works for them. Homeowners across the US are using Silvernest to supplement their income an average $10,000 per year by renting out their spare rooms. At the same time, renters save an average $9,000 per year by homesharing rather than paying market rent rates.

Silvernest and SoFIA: Partnering to Educate Floridians on Homesharing

Like compatible housemates, homesharing and Florida are a match made in heaven. For all the reasons above, the Sunshine State is particularly well positioned to benefit from homesharing—and the first step is equipping homeowners with the knowledge they need to determine if homesharing is right for them. Silvernest and the South Florida Institute on Aging (SoFIA), a nonprofit focused on empowering people as they age with services, insights and education, recently announced a partnership focused on providing exactly that kind of knowledge.

You can learn more about the partnership here and reach out to community@silvernest.com to get involved.

Connecticut Launches 1st Statewide 100-Day Challenges To End Youth Homelessness: 8 Regions Co-Design With Youth & Mobilize Efforts, Total Of 5,054 Unaccompanied Youth, Financial Support Pouring In

A broad-based coalition of advocates, providers, state agencies, and young adults is launching eight 100-Day Challenges to house and improve services to youth and young adults experiencing homelessness throughout Connecticut. Funded by a wide array of local philanthropies, this is a true statewide effort, the first of its kind in the nation.   http://pschousing.org/news/connecticut-launches-100-day-challenges-end-youth-homelessness   On April 30, 2019, the 100-Day Challenges to End Youth Homelessness in Connecticut held a launch event at the Lyceum in Hartford, bringing together local, statewide, and national leaders. Among the speakers were Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz.  “Since 2012, our state has successfully driven down homelessness by 40%,” said Bysiewicz. “Ending homelessness is not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for our families and communities.”  In 2018, the statewide Youth Count found that there were 5,054 unaccompanied youth who were homeless or unstably housed in Connecticut. The state of Connecticut has set the goal of ending homelessness among youth and young adults by the end of 2020 - with the ambitious plans outlined in the state’s Opening Doors for Youth 2.0 Plan. The 100-Day Challenge provides a means to mobilize action to achieve this goal.  “The 100-Day Challenges are an innovative way to jump-start Connecticut’s efforts to end homelessness among youth and young adults,” said Kiley Gosselin, executive director of the Partnership for Strong Communities, a statewide nonprofit which staffs and manages the Reaching Home Campaign to end homelessness in Connecticut. “The 100-Day Challenges also offer leadership development opportunities for young people with lived experience of homelessness. Each team will have active, supported, and funded participation of young adults as stakeholders in their 100-Day Challenge.”  100-Day Challenges are designed to empower and support communities in pursuit of an ambitious goal. The compressed timeframe of 100 days, high visibility, and support from coaches, peers and stakeholders all work together to inspire teams to collaborate, innovate and experiment to achieve rapid progress and sustainable system change. This methodology was pioneered by Rapid Results Institute (RRI) and has been used by communities and governments around the world to tackle complex social issues. In almost every case, results are achieved at levels that far exceed normal performance levels. For example, in 2017, a 100-Day Challenge team in Hennepin County, Minnesota set a goal to ensure that 150 youth age 16-24 exited homelessness into safe and stable housing, and 75% of them would be employed. 100 days later, 236 youth were in safe and stable housing and 57% were employed.  “Connecticut has an impressive history with 100-Day Challenges tackling Veteran and chronic homelessness. These efforts were a critical tool in our state’s success in ending Veteran homelessness in 2016,” said Connecticut Commissioner of Housing, Seila Mosquera-Bruno. “This is an exciting and timely opportunity to launch 100-Day Challenges for youth and young adults. In 2017, Connecticut’s Balance of State Continuum of Care was awarded $6.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). These funds are now flowing into communities and the 100-Day Challenges will provide regions with the opportunity to experiment with how to use the new resources in innovative and productive ways.”  “This is a great opportunity to move the needle on preventing and ending youth homelessness in Connecticut,” said David Tille, HUD New England Regional Administrator. “HUD has supported 100-Day Challenges across the country, they are a critical tool to engage youth voices in developing strategic ways to house young people and meet their needs.”  The eight regional teams will each establish a 100-Day goal that not only includes housing a significant number of young people, but requires strengthening collaboration across systems. These goals will vary according to the needs of each community and may include housing a sub-population of vulnerable youth, preventing youth from exiting public systems without stable housing, securing employment, and strengthening infrastructure to address the youth homelessness crisis.  “The 100-Day Challenges provide an important way for young people with lived experience of homelessness to co-design services, housing models, and system interventions that are accessible and meet the needs of peers in their communities,” said Angel Cotto of the Youth Action Hub, a youth-led center of research and advocacy at the Institute for Community Research. “Incorporating authentic youth voice is critical for creating solutions that work.”  There has been an outpouring of philanthropic support for the 100-Day Challenges from funders across Connecticut. Led by the Melville Charitable Trust, this collaborative funding effort has included supporting stipends for young adults with lived experience to be full members of local 100-Day Challenge teams. Funders include: American Savings Foundation, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, Connecticut Community Foundation, Dalio Philanthropies, Fairfield Community Foundation, Farmington Bank Community Foundation, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Ion Bank Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, Main Street Community Foundation, Manchester Interfaith Social Action Committee, Melville Charitable Trust, Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, United Way of Greater New Haven, United Way Greater Waterbury, United Way Northwest, United Way of West Central Connecticut, and Webster Bank.  “It is critical that all young people in Connecticut have safe, stable places to live and opportunities to reach their full potential,” Aimee Hendrigan, Vice President of Programs at the Melville Charitable Trust said. “We are pleased to support this innovative effort that prioritizes the voices of youth with lived experience of homelessness.”  Updates on the 100-Day Challenges can be found at www.pschousing.org/youth-100-day-challenge. Those interested can also follow the Challenge using #EndYouthHomelessness and #Changein100Days on social media. Please be on the lookout for information on the wrap-up event for the 100-Day Challenges, which will occur in mid-August.

A broad-based coalition of advocates, providers, state agencies, and young adults is launching eight 100-Day Challenges to house and improve services to youth and young adults experiencing homelessness throughout Connecticut. Funded by a wide array of local philanthropies, this is a true statewide effort, the first of its kind in the nation.

http://pschousing.org/news/connecticut-launches-100-day-challenges-end-youth-homelessness

On April 30, 2019, the 100-Day Challenges to End Youth Homelessness in Connecticut held a launch event at the Lyceum in Hartford, bringing together local, statewide, and national leaders. Among the speakers were Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin and Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz.

“Since 2012, our state has successfully driven down homelessness by 40%,” said Bysiewicz. “Ending homelessness is not just the smart thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for our families and communities.”

In 2018, the statewide Youth Count found that there were 5,054 unaccompanied youth who were homeless or unstably housed in Connecticut. The state of Connecticut has set the goal of ending homelessness among youth and young adults by the end of 2020 - with the ambitious plans outlined in the state’s Opening Doors for Youth 2.0 Plan. The 100-Day Challenge provides a means to mobilize action to achieve this goal.

“The 100-Day Challenges are an innovative way to jump-start Connecticut’s efforts to end homelessness among youth and young adults,” said Kiley Gosselin, executive director of the Partnership for Strong Communities, a statewide nonprofit which staffs and manages the Reaching Home Campaign to end homelessness in Connecticut. “The 100-Day Challenges also offer leadership development opportunities for young people with lived experience of homelessness. Each team will have active, supported, and funded participation of young adults as stakeholders in their 100-Day Challenge.”

100-Day Challenges are designed to empower and support communities in pursuit of an ambitious goal. The compressed timeframe of 100 days, high visibility, and support from coaches, peers and stakeholders all work together to inspire teams to collaborate, innovate and experiment to achieve rapid progress and sustainable system change. This methodology was pioneered by Rapid Results Institute (RRI) and has been used by communities and governments around the world to tackle complex social issues. In almost every case, results are achieved at levels that far exceed normal performance levels. For example, in 2017, a 100-Day Challenge team in Hennepin County, Minnesota set a goal to ensure that 150 youth age 16-24 exited homelessness into safe and stable housing, and 75% of them would be employed. 100 days later, 236 youth were in safe and stable housing and 57% were employed.

“Connecticut has an impressive history with 100-Day Challenges tackling Veteran and chronic homelessness. These efforts were a critical tool in our state’s success in ending Veteran homelessness in 2016,” said Connecticut Commissioner of Housing, Seila Mosquera-Bruno. “This is an exciting and timely opportunity to launch 100-Day Challenges for youth and young adults. In 2017, Connecticut’s Balance of State Continuum of Care was awarded $6.5 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to implement the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP). These funds are now flowing into communities and the 100-Day Challenges will provide regions with the opportunity to experiment with how to use the new resources in innovative and productive ways.”

“This is a great opportunity to move the needle on preventing and ending youth homelessness in Connecticut,” said David Tille, HUD New England Regional Administrator. “HUD has supported 100-Day Challenges across the country, they are a critical tool to engage youth voices in developing strategic ways to house young people and meet their needs.”

The eight regional teams will each establish a 100-Day goal that not only includes housing a significant number of young people, but requires strengthening collaboration across systems. These goals will vary according to the needs of each community and may include housing a sub-population of vulnerable youth, preventing youth from exiting public systems without stable housing, securing employment, and strengthening infrastructure to address the youth homelessness crisis.

“The 100-Day Challenges provide an important way for young people with lived experience of homelessness to co-design services, housing models, and system interventions that are accessible and meet the needs of peers in their communities,” said Angel Cotto of the Youth Action Hub, a youth-led center of research and advocacy at the Institute for Community Research. “Incorporating authentic youth voice is critical for creating solutions that work.”

There has been an outpouring of philanthropic support for the 100-Day Challenges from funders across Connecticut. Led by the Melville Charitable Trust, this collaborative funding effort has included supporting stipends for young adults with lived experience to be full members of local 100-Day Challenge teams. Funders include: American Savings Foundation, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Community Foundation of Greater New Haven, Connecticut Community Foundation, Dalio Philanthropies, Fairfield Community Foundation, Farmington Bank Community Foundation, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, Ion Bank Foundation, Liberty Bank Foundation, Main Street Community Foundation, Manchester Interfaith Social Action Committee, Melville Charitable Trust, Northwest Connecticut Community Foundation, United Way of Greater New Haven, United Way Greater Waterbury, United Way Northwest, United Way of West Central Connecticut, and Webster Bank.

“It is critical that all young people in Connecticut have safe, stable places to live and opportunities to reach their full potential,” Aimee Hendrigan, Vice President of Programs at the Melville Charitable Trust said. “We are pleased to support this innovative effort that prioritizes the voices of youth with lived experience of homelessness.”

Updates on the 100-Day Challenges can be found at www.pschousing.org/youth-100-day-challenge. Those interested can also follow the Challenge using #EndYouthHomelessness and #Changein100Days on social media. Please be on the lookout for information on the wrap-up event for the 100-Day Challenges, which will occur in mid-August.

California Nonprofit's Transition-Aged Youth Project: 100 Peer Advocates To Foster Youth For College Education & Job Assistance, Receive $1300 Stipend For 10 Months, Peer Advocacy Better Approach

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For young people who have survived often-turbulent stays in and out of the foster care system, trusting adults and systems can be hard.

https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/child-welfare-2/serving-the-future-california-foster-youth-start-americorps-adventure

“After all, we’ve been through foster care and the crazy situations we’ve been in, if you’ve never been there, you’ll never be able to understand,” said Kamiah Manning, an 18-year-old foster youth from Los Angeles.

For Manning, who was living in a group home until recently, it was difficult to learn about what resources were available to her — assistance such as tutoring, housing and help with applying to college. While many youth staying there were often consumed with the daily stresses of living in a group home, Manning said that group home staff and social workers made it difficult to identify and access resources that could help her as she prepares to transition into adulthood on her own.

“We’re tired of being pushed aside because other people don’t care as much,” she said. “In a lot of cases, we can do a better job ourselves.”

Starting last month, Manning will be one of 100 transition-age foster youth (TAY) across California on the frontlines of reaching out to fellow foster youth as part of a new program that is equal parts service-learning and a first job for many foster youth.

Developed by Truckee, Calif.-based nonprofit iFoster, these foster youths will participate in the state’s AmeriCorps program, where a paid service opportunity will enable them to receive a $1,300 stipend for 10 months and the opportunity to earn a college scholarship. Through the initiative, organizers hope that foster youth will develop the skills they need to forge permanent work — including in the public sector — after they age out of the foster care system.

About half of the $5 million budget for the first year of the project comes from AmeriCorps, a federal program overseen by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The rest comes from public and private funding, along with the in-kind support of county agencies.

The 100 AmeriCorps participants – 82 in Los Angeles County, 18 in five counties in the Bay Area – will all serve as TAY Ambassadors, providing other foster youth with a better connection to information, supports and services. That means everything from how to find emergency housing to where to get your driving license. The goal is to better prepare transition-age youth for adulthood as they get ready to leave the foster care system.

According to a report issued by LA County last year, there are more than 5,000 young people ages 16 to 21 who have active cases with either the county’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) or the Probation Department. Four years after leaving the jurisdiction of the foster care system, 50 percent of transition-age foster youth in LA County are unemployed. Fifty percent of that group will experience homelessness, and 70 percent will depend on governmental assistance to get by.

While the outcomes for TAY foster youth are poor, the issue isn’t always a dearth of resources, according to iFoster’s Serita Cox. Just 27 percent of foster youth in college campuses regularly accessed a campus support program for students involved with the foster care system, according to a 2016 study. Nearly 29 percent of foster college students were unaware of the availability of programs like Guardian Scholars, which offer mentoring, employment, career counseling and tutoring services to students at many colleges across the state.

Across the county’s network of career centers, only 11 percent of the foster youth participating in the county’s independent living program for foster youth ages 16 to 21 accessed employment services, Cox said.

“There’s always been a gap between a pile of resources that are out there and the fact youth don’t know about them,” Cox said. “The current methods of communication to youth aren’t working. With the population that we serve, trust is the number one issue. [Foster youth] can create that that type of relationship instantaneously.”

The TAY Ambassadors in LA County will be sent to college campuses, county-run youth workforce centers and local offices of county departments to help increase the number of transition age youth using services at those host sites. The goal is to connect 3,500 youth to academic, employment and self-sufficiency resources over the next year, but it will also mean a paid opportunity for foster youth to give back to their peers.

In recent years, California’s AmeriCorps program, known as California Volunteers, has been pitching ideas about how to work with vulnerable populations as part of its work to administer $40 million a year in federal funding for service programs across the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) January budget proposal proposes creating 40 AmeriCorps positions to help young people re-enter society after exiting the state’s Division of Juvenile Justice.

According to California Chief Service Officer Karen Baker, who leads California Volunteers, that’s part of a deliberate effort of the TAY Ambassador program, which she says is “like no other program in the country.”

“We are very strategically looking at not just the traditional AmeriCorps placements, where people can make a difference in things like education and the environment,” Baker said. “What we’re doing is looking at who’s at the sidelines and who really needs to be involved in service and how do we get them in the door.”

Over the course of the program, TAY Ambassadors will receive mentoring, professional development and leadership training in addition to their part-time work. If youth complete all 900 hours of the program in a year, they will be eligible for a one-time, $2,960 college scholarship from the federal government to pay for higher education expenses. They are also eligible to complete the program four times.

In LA County, all 82 youth are between the ages of 17 and 20, nearly all supported through extended foster care or transitional housing for foster youth. The path toward involving foster youth in AmeriCorps — a federal program that has long been seen as a place for college graduates to gain professional experience for careers in public service — was not without some hurdles.

According to Cox, working with AmeriCorps meant dealing with issues like a federal contracting process with strict rules about providing documents like a birth certificate or passport.

“We know that if you’re still in care, you might not have your birth certificate,” she said. That meant coming up with creative solutions, including DCFS workers providing “ward of the court” letters to satisfy federal requirements.

The success of the program could have many other interested jurisdictions from across the country, Cox said.

“There’s a lot of eyeballs on us to see how we make this work,” Cox said. “If we show this works for our youth, why couldn’t we replicate this for every child welfare agency across the country?”

For Justin Avila, 20, being able to help out other foster youth is a powerful pull. As he gets ready to exit the foster care system this May, when he turns 21, Avila hopes the TAY Ambassador program will serve as a capstone to his time in care.

“It’s the scariest thing ever, but right now, I’m happy,” Avila said. “This is a cool way to go out.”

He’s had some good social workers and some bad ones along a journey in the foster care system that started at age 4. During that time, he’s bounced from many homes across the Southland and even Oregon, along with his sister Jaylene, now 18.

“The pay is cool but it’s the service that’s really important to me,” Avila said. “There’s this feeling inside of me, the things I’ve been through, the hurt and the missing love we didn’t get. It’s something that boils inside.

“As foster youth, we all went through a lot of things. I just want to improve things for the future, set the bar just a little bit higher for the next youth that are going through the system.”

New York Nonprofits Collaborate For Foster Care Youth Project: $500,000 Over 2 Years To Pilot "Permanency Pacts", Non-Legal Contracts Between Adults & Foster Youth To Solidify Committed Support

When Ta’nika first met Victoria Sweet, she had her doubts.   https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/child-welfare-2/new-york-tries-permanency-pacts-foster-youth   “I hated her because I didn’t know her,” said the 19-year-old Bronx native. She was in foster care, and most foster care professionals don’t stay involved in those young lives for long. Sweet, then a staffer at the New York City foster agency caring for Ta’Nika, Good Shepherd Services, won over the younger woman with long, candid talks. Then, Sweet made a more durable commitment with the help of a unique tool, one many foster care agencies nationwide are starting to use, called Permanency Pacts.  “[Victoria] made it possible to have a relationship with her by showing she is genuinely interested in me, and my family, too,” says Ta’nika, who declined to provide her last name. “You need to feel like someone cares about you, especially when you don’t feel like anybody cares about you.”  “Permanency,” the goal of finding life-long stability and relationships for youth in foster care, is an obsessive focus of most foster care agencies nationwide. But while most foster youth either return to their parents, live with relatives or get adopted, some of them still transition into adulthood without finding a permanent home.  Permanency Pacts aim to help foster youth create and confirm expectations for their relationships with adults, regardless of the paths their lives take.  “I feel like even though it is just a piece of paper and there is no guarantee that a person will keep their promise, it helps to have it,” says Ta’Nika.  The Permanency Pact was first developed by the Oregon-based foster youth advocacy group FosterClub, and has been customized by different foster care agencies across the country. But it’s typically an informal, non-legal contract with a list of supports adults can promise to offer foster youth like Ta’Nika. These supports vary from a lower-intensity promise for an occasional lunch date to a higher-level promise to house a youth if they fall on hard times as young adults.  “We’ve done a scan and know it’s widely used,” said Celeste Bodner, founder of FosterClub. One judge requires a pact for any youth that the agency expects will “age out” of foster care into adulthood, she said.  In New York, the Redlich Horwitz Foundation has already provided $150,000 in grants to Good Shepherd Services to implement the Permanency Pacts, and recently committed to another $150,000. The foster care agency, one of the largest and oldest in New York City, has used the pacts in conjunction with the Youth Connections Scale, which is a survey given to foster youth when they enter care, to evaluate the quantity and quality of their relationships. The pacts are then supposed to help them improve that score.  “Other agencies would go out and bring in new people who had no relationship with the youth, and get them to sign the Permanency Pact with these youth, because they thought these young people didn’t already have a network,” said Denise Hinds, associate executive director for Good Shepherd Services. “We decided to use our mentors, our foster parents, people who already know our youth that they might identify. Everybody did it their own way, and that’s what made it appealing to us, it wasn’t a rigid process.”  Good Shepherd says it’s seen improvements in youth relationship scores in post-care surveys. In comparing a group of 38 youth who signed pacts between 2015 and 2017 to 35 youth who did not, the organization found stronger reports of connectedness with adults among the pact group.  “We initially started seeking a way to increase the permanence of relationships for young people being discharged from foster care,” says Aurora Anderson, youth development and permanency coordinator with Good Shepherd Services. “The city and state already have these tools that asked us to identify a supportive adult for every young person who leaves care. To make that more concrete, instead of just writing a name on a piece of paper, we’ve used the Permanency Pact with every young person who is being discharged from foster care.”  Sweet’s relationship with Ta’nika has continued even after Sweet left for another job, as the kind of mature, loyal adviser that can be hard to come by for youth in foster care.  “I believe I will always have a relationship with Victoria.”

When Ta’nika first met Victoria Sweet, she had her doubts.

https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/child-welfare-2/new-york-tries-permanency-pacts-foster-youth

“I hated her because I didn’t know her,” said the 19-year-old Bronx native. She was in foster care, and most foster care professionals don’t stay involved in those young lives for long. Sweet, then a staffer at the New York City foster agency caring for Ta’Nika, Good Shepherd Services, won over the younger woman with long, candid talks. Then, Sweet made a more durable commitment with the help of a unique tool, one many foster care agencies nationwide are starting to use, called Permanency Pacts.

“[Victoria] made it possible to have a relationship with her by showing she is genuinely interested in me, and my family, too,” says Ta’nika, who declined to provide her last name. “You need to feel like someone cares about you, especially when you don’t feel like anybody cares about you.”

“Permanency,” the goal of finding life-long stability and relationships for youth in foster care, is an obsessive focus of most foster care agencies nationwide. But while most foster youth either return to their parents, live with relatives or get adopted, some of them still transition into adulthood without finding a permanent home.

Permanency Pacts aim to help foster youth create and confirm expectations for their relationships with adults, regardless of the paths their lives take.

“I feel like even though it is just a piece of paper and there is no guarantee that a person will keep their promise, it helps to have it,” says Ta’Nika.

The Permanency Pact was first developed by the Oregon-based foster youth advocacy group FosterClub, and has been customized by different foster care agencies across the country. But it’s typically an informal, non-legal contract with a list of supports adults can promise to offer foster youth like Ta’Nika. These supports vary from a lower-intensity promise for an occasional lunch date to a higher-level promise to house a youth if they fall on hard times as young adults.

“We’ve done a scan and know it’s widely used,” said Celeste Bodner, founder of FosterClub. One judge requires a pact for any youth that the agency expects will “age out” of foster care into adulthood, she said.

In New York, the Redlich Horwitz Foundation has already provided $150,000 in grants to Good Shepherd Services to implement the Permanency Pacts, and recently committed to another $150,000. The foster care agency, one of the largest and oldest in New York City, has used the pacts in conjunction with the Youth Connections Scale, which is a survey given to foster youth when they enter care, to evaluate the quantity and quality of their relationships. The pacts are then supposed to help them improve that score.

“Other agencies would go out and bring in new people who had no relationship with the youth, and get them to sign the Permanency Pact with these youth, because they thought these young people didn’t already have a network,” said Denise Hinds, associate executive director for Good Shepherd Services. “We decided to use our mentors, our foster parents, people who already know our youth that they might identify. Everybody did it their own way, and that’s what made it appealing to us, it wasn’t a rigid process.”

Good Shepherd says it’s seen improvements in youth relationship scores in post-care surveys. In comparing a group of 38 youth who signed pacts between 2015 and 2017 to 35 youth who did not, the organization found stronger reports of connectedness with adults among the pact group.

“We initially started seeking a way to increase the permanence of relationships for young people being discharged from foster care,” says Aurora Anderson, youth development and permanency coordinator with Good Shepherd Services. “The city and state already have these tools that asked us to identify a supportive adult for every young person who leaves care. To make that more concrete, instead of just writing a name on a piece of paper, we’ve used the Permanency Pact with every young person who is being discharged from foster care.”

Sweet’s relationship with Ta’nika has continued even after Sweet left for another job, as the kind of mature, loyal adviser that can be hard to come by for youth in foster care.

“I believe I will always have a relationship with Victoria.”