Fostering success with youth in foster care
MSU Extension partners with Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative to provide life skills education for youth in foster care.
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. Did you know there are approximately 10,000 children in foster care in Michigan? Youth living in foster care are often subject to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Providing programs where youth feel welcome, have a sense of belonging, have their voices heard, and their contributions matter is particularly important for youth in the foster care system. Michigan State University Extension staff serve as positive and supportive adult role models for youth in foster care by providing practical, interactive life skills education through their partnership with Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI).
During the pandemic, MSU Extension’s statewide partnership with MYOI, a program funded by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), flourished by providing educational programs critical to enhancing the success of young adults who are transitioning or have transitioned from the foster care system. That collaboration continues today; MYOI coordinators select from a list of 40 MSU Extension Adulting 101 class options in the areas of workforce preparation, career exploration, money management, communication, leadership, civic engagement, cultural awareness and life skills. Some of the session titles include Goal Setting, Informed Renter, Household Tasks, Art of Time Management, Rockin' Resumes, Career Connections Through Volunteerism, and Changing the World with a Single Vote. In 2022, 61 life skills sessions were provided to youth involved in MYOI, with 1,545 participants.
“MDHHS MYOI coordinators have been partnering with MSU Extension since our program switched to virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ashley Kliewer, MYOI coordinator for the MDHHS in Ionia and Montcalm counties. “The trainings MSU Extension offers parallels perfectly with the goals of MYOI – to educate youth and provide the opportunity for them to gain independent living skills. The content MSU Extension offers is relatable and at the youth’s level of understanding. Trainers are knowledgeable and interactive. Being able to connect with MSU Extension trainers from across the state and to have our youth log on from whatever county they are in has benefited them in ways traditional in-person trainings could not. We are lucky to have such an amazing community partner available to our foster youth so that they can experience positive outcomes in housing, education, employment, community engagement and health."
A popular class offering is called Choose Your Future, where youth explore tools and reflect on how to choose a career path that is compatible with their interests, skills, values and personality. After taking this class,
- 100% of the youth agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “As a result of this program, I plan to further explore careers that might be a good fit for me.”
- 91% of the youth agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “As a result of this program, I can connect my interests and skills to career options.”
- 91% of the youth agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “As a result of this program, I can identify potential careers in my field of interest.”
- 80% of the youth agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “As a result of this program, I know how to research specific careers.”
To ensure youth in foster care start off with a solid financial foundation, a class called Keep Yourself out of Debt is one of the offerings. Among MYOI participants who completed the class evaluation:
- 100% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “As a result of this program, I am more aware of my spending leaks.”
- 86% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, “As a result of this program, I feel more confident that I can manage my debt.”
If you are interested in learning how MSU Extension can provide services to youth living in foster care, please contact Kathy Jamieson at email@example.com.