Fostering Success program aims to help 18- to 23-year-olds transitioning from foster care reach their goals

05/31/2016 06:42 PM

LOUISVILLE — Gov. Matt Bevin and other state officials unveiled a new program aimed to help young adults exiting foster care take the next step in their lives on Tuesday, whether that’s pursuing a college degree or joining Kentucky’s workforce.

About 100 participants aged 18 to 23 will be the first to enter Fostering Success, a 10-week work program through the state that will teach computer and clerical skills to those transitioning from foster care.

Participants will earn $10 per hour in their work at local Department for Community Based Services offices, with federal funding available through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

“Best of all, you’re going to have at least two mentors,” said Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “I think mentors, that’s one of the most important things that someone can have.”

One group of mentors will have experience in the cabinet’s “war room” in Frankfort, established to address issues with the state’s transition to Benefind, and another will be the participants’ DCBS supervisors, she said.

Bevin said he hopes the program will provide a springboard for those transitioning out of foster homes as they enter independent life.

“We want this state to be the manufacturing hub of excellence in America, simple as that, and all these things you’ve just heard about and so many others are going to feed into that, and what manufacturing once was is not what it is now,” he said.

“It is unbelievable how high-tech, how sophisticated, the degree of specificity, and our intent is to make sure that each of these young people has as wide an on ramp as anyone else in Kentucky to ensure that opportunity is there.”

Duke Brown, of Lexington, said as a former foster child, the opportunity presented by the Fostering Success program should be viewed as, more than anything, a 10-week opportunity to establish a professional support network.

He challenged those entering the program to “use it to build life-long relationships.”

“Use it for the down payment on that old Ford, Toyota Corolla that you need to get back and forth to work,” Brown said. “Use it for that laptop that you’re going to use for classes. Basically, invest in yourself.”

Bevin said he hopes that private entities and other groups will partner with the state on this program, and Frank Harshaw, president of Louisville-based HVAC company Harshaw Trane, said he plans to help Fostering Success succeed.

“I have the time and the resources that I can help, and I don’t even know yet all the things that we can do to help,” said Harshaw, a former foster child. “But the secretary has promised me that we will be involved to help, and the governor, when I said, ‘Hey, I’d like to help,’ he said, ‘You might be careful about what you’re signing up for.’”

Bevin is looking beyond the program launch as he wants to revamp Kentucky’s foster care system.

He says the thousands of children currently in foster care deserve a permanent home, sharing his family’s struggles as they attempted to adopt a foster daughter only to be denied because they already had four children.

“This is the first step of a long journey, but every one of you is going to look back and you’re going to say, ‘I was there in that room on that way when we started out on something that has become a beacon of light to America,’” Bevin said.

Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, called the program “a major win for Kentucky children” since it’s a multi-cabinet effort, it underscores Bevin’s commitment to reforming the state’s child welfare system and it focuses on training young adults who need more help than others.

“Fostering Success means that dozens of young people across the Commonwealth — who have had a very tough life to date — will have shots at real opportunities and a real future,” Brooks said in a statement.

“The solid thinking around employment, housing, transportation, and personal supports is a winning combination for the youth and for the communities in which these young people will emerge as productive citizens.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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