Yolo County relieves foster youth’s transition to independence

Most teenagers anxiously await the day they turn 18, but not every young adult shares this same excitement. For foster youth, becoming a legal adult carries new responsibilities to lead an independent life.

Most teenagers anxiously await the day they turn 18, but not every young adult shares this same excitement. For foster youth, becoming a legal adult carries new responsibilities to lead an independent life.

In an effort to aid in the transition from out-of-home residencies to independent living, the Transitional Housing Placement Plus (THP-Plus) program helps emancipated foster children in 52 counties. The THP-Plus program offers affordable housing, furniture, assistance with enrollment in school and help finding a job to former foster children ages 18 to 24.

“It is the only program in the state that works to address homelessness in former foster youth,” said Amy Lemley, policy director for the John Burton Foundation. “I think it’s very scary for these teens. You can imagine the kind of panic and frustration that this creates for them. We need to fulfill our commitment to these young people the way a parent would support their child in this transition.”

The California Department of Social Services, John Burton Foundation and the Corporation for Supportive Housing established the statewide project in 2001. Yolo County implemented the THP-Plus program in 2008, providing affordable housing for foster youth in a subsidized, communal home in the city of Davis.

Youth in the 24-month program are given housing, furniture, food allotment, counseling, assistance with earning their GED if needed, a $50 monthly stipend and a trust account to help them save money for life after the program.

“Approximately 15 youth emancipate out of foster care in Yolo County each year,” said Nancy O’Hara, assistant director of Yolo County Department of Employment and Social Services in an e-mail interview. “Most have no where to live and no means of support at the time they are emancipated. The youth seem receptive and appreciative [of the THP-Plus].”

On July 1, however, the benefits of the program may be in danger if the state decreases its $172,000 allocation for Yolo County’s THP-Plus due to the California budget crisis.

“What little security they have had has been undermined by the recession,” Lemley said. “When we need it [the THP-Plus] most we see a proposal to eliminate it. As counties are more seriously affected by the recession, we see a kind of trickle down effect where counties have to decide what they do or do not want to do. It’s a tough decision for everyone.”

According to a 2002 study by the California Department of Social Services, every year in California over 4,200 young adults are dismissed from foster care, and two out of three end up homeless. Since its formation, the THP-Plus has been relatively successful – 85 percent of its participants retain housing and employment for at least one year after completing the program.

To help Yolo County’s local foster care, Soroptimist International of Davis held its annual poker tournament on March 6 at the Veterans’ Memorial Center.

“This type of issue isn’t on everyone’s radar,” said Lea Roseberg, president of Soroptimist International of Davis. “We wanted to bring it forth a little bit. I hope that these young adults know that there is a group out there that is supportive of their futures and that we care. Most of us have a mom or dad to help us get through college and pay for rent, but hopefully we can come in and help that Yolo County agency.”

About 80 percent of the profits collected were donated to the local housing program, the group’s primary project for the next couple years. Soroptimist will distribute the rest of the proceeds amongst other community projects.

SAMANTHA BOSIO can be reached at city@theaggie.org.