Tools for Success: Promoting Collaboration Between Programs for Foster Youth and Homeless Teens
Ask any five grantees of the Family and Youth Services Bureau’s Transitional Living Program (TLP) how they collaborate with the Children’s Bureau’s Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) and you may get five completely different answers.
Why? Because they all know this important fact: By working together, programs can improve outcomes for the youth they serve.
To improve among TLPs and CFCIPs even further, the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), which oversees both the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) and the Children’s Bureau, is working with the Interagency Council on Homelessness on a new awareness campaign.
“We want to make sure that TLPs and CFCIPs are pooling as many resources as they can in order to provide the most comprehensive services to the youth they serve,” says Joan Ohl, commissioner of ACYF.
The TLP and CFCIP programs are natural allies. Founded separately in the 1980s, they were created by Congress to provide critical support and independent living skills to young people without a home who aren’t yet prepared to live on their own. These young people—runaways in the case of TLP and foster youth in the case of CFCIP—were winding up homeless, on welfare, or in the juvenile justice system in large numbers rather than making successful transitions to higher education or careers.
In order to provide these at-risk young people with the skills they need to live and thrive on their own, TLPs and CFCIPs offer housing and an array of services, including basic life skills training, vocational or educational support, health care, and counseling. Foster youth can also receive additional educational support through the Chafee Educational and Training Voucher (ETV) Program.
Despite the intersection of their missions and services, collaboration is not without its challenges. While TLP funding is awarded as discretionary grants to community-based organizations, CFCIP funding is provided as a block grant to States to administer locally. Eligibility and rules vary, so TLPs need to do their own research and outreach to the independent living coordinators in their particular State.
“States may have different approaches to serving youth in at-risk situations, but our goals are the same,” says Curtis Porter, acting associate commissioner of FYSB. “We want to make sure young people have all the tools and opportunities available to them so that they may succeed.”