Groups connect Missouri youth in foster care with life and work skills

Foster Care kids aging out sign

Community partnerships in Missouri are working to help young people, either in or aging out of foster care, connect with the resources they need to start their independent lives, and the pandemic has brought added financial hardship for many.

DeWayne Bright, Sr., youth advocate for the Local Investment Commission (LINC) in Kansas City, works with the local Chafee Independent Living Initiative. It links young people with life and work skills and job placements and helps them pay for things like transportation and work attire.

Bright said the pandemic has had a major impact on many of the kids he works with.  “They were working in situations where their hours were cut,” Bright explained. “Many of them already had unstable housing situations. It really hit our kids terribly. And so, we’re just trying to help them really find some stability.” He added LINC and Chafee Services also help young people access to state and federal funds that are available to them, such as helping them fill out financial aid forms, or education and training voucher applications to pay for college.

Robyn Wolfe, director of youth development for the Community Partnership in Rolla, said a big part of the Chafee Independent Living Program is being a voice to help youths advocate for themselves. She added their individual needs may be very different. “For one, it may be the things related to employment and housing, and aging out,” Wolfe noted. “And then for another, it may be soft skills, like I need to learn how to make better decisions and how to control my anger. Then you might have the ones that are very tangible: I want to learn how to do laundry; I want to learn how to cook a healthy meal.”

The partnerships also support foster families.

Tom Dugger, executive director of Families and Communities Together in Hannibal, said their donation programs for foster families have items ranging from household goods, clothing, and school supplies, to cribs, mattresses, and car seats. “We have a car seat tech, and the car seat tech can make sure that the seat is installed properly in their car,” Dugger emphasized. “If they have an old seat, we can do a check on it.”

Families and Communities Together, as well as LINC and the Community Partnership in Rolla, are affiliated with the Missouri Family and Community Trust and Kids Count Missouri. All are working to improve outcomes for kids and families in the state.