Baltimore Becomes Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative Site

Posted March 25, 2016, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog baltimoreisnewjimcaseysite 2016

With the aim of guid­ing more young peo­ple in fos­ter care toward brighter futures and suc­cess­ful adult­hoods, the Casey Foun­da­tion and Bal­ti­more City have part­nered to launch the newest Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive site in Charm City.

This devel­op­ment expands the Jim Casey Initiative’s nation­al net­work to 18 sites, stretch­ing from Hawaii to Maine. The site’s lead agency, the Bal­ti­more City Depart­ment of Social Ser­vices (BCDSS), and the Foun­da­tion will work close­ly to make sure all young peo­ple leav­ing fos­ter care have the oppor­tu­ni­ties, rela­tion­ships and tools need­ed for a suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion to adult­hood. Efforts will include advo­cat­ing for improved poli­cies and prac­tices and ensur­ing young peo­ple have a voice in plan­ning for their futures.

The Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive has been a leader in advanc­ing the needs of young peo­ple in fos­ter care and we are thrilled to bring this move­ment to Bal­ti­more, the Foundation’s home­town,” San­dra Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez, direc­tor of the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive, said today in announc­ing the site’s launch. We look for­ward to engag­ing young peo­ple in fos­ter care in Bal­ti­more as vital voic­es at the cen­ter of the fight for the social, emo­tion­al, aca­d­e­m­ic and phys­i­cal well-being of youth across the city and around the country.”

Each year, about 23,000 young peo­ple age out of fos­ter care in the Unit­ed States with­out per­ma­nent con­nec­tions to a sta­ble fam­i­lies. Many of these young peo­ple face dif­fi­cul­ties imme­di­ate­ly upon aging out of fos­ter care — such as drop­ping out of school, becom­ing par­ents before they are ready or expe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness — cost­ly con­se­quences that affect all com­mu­ni­ties.

In Bal­ti­more’s child wel­fare sys­tem, we’ve worked hard over the past years to reduce the num­ber of chil­dren in fos­ter care and to make sure, to the best of our abil­i­ty, that chil­dren in fos­ter care are liv­ing with fam­i­lies,” said Mol­ly McGrath Tier­ney, BCDSS direc­tor. This was enor­mous­ly impor­tant for young­sters but we knew the chang­ing demo­graph­ic of the case­load — now large­ly teens and young adults — asked even more of us. We are thrilled to part­ner with the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive to help achieve even greater out­comes for our city’s young peo­ple in fos­ter care.”

As a Jim Casey site, Bal­ti­more will focus on these five crit­i­cal con­di­tions — cre­at­ed through activ­i­ties that require the part­ner­ship of BCDSS as the lead agency, co-investors with­in the com­mu­ni­ty and the Jim Casey Initiative:

  • Youth engage­ment: Prepar­ing young peo­ple to be mean­ing­ful­ly involved as deci­sion mak­ers and advocates.
  • Part­ner­ships and resources: Con­nect­ing to resources of pub­lic and pri­vate sys­tems and phil­an­thropy, expand­ing and deep­en­ing com­mu­ni­ty sup­port and cul­ti­vat­ing com­mu­ni­ty cham­pi­ons for young peo­ple tran­si­tion­ing from care.
  • Research, eval­u­a­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions: Involv­ing key stake­hold­ers in the use of data to dri­ve deci­sion mak­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions and to doc­u­ment results.
  • Pub­lic will and pol­i­cy: Advanc­ing poli­cies and prac­tices that improve out­comes for young peo­ple tran­si­tion­ing from fos­ter care.
  • Increased oppor­tu­ni­ties: Cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple to learn finan­cial man­age­ment, be con­nect­ed to and obtain expe­ri­ence with main­stream bank­ing and prac­tice sav­ing money.

What we hear con­sis­tent­ly from young peo­ple in fos­ter care around the coun­try is that they need par­ents to love and guide them. They need close rela­tion­ships with their sib­lings, extend­ed fam­i­ly and oth­er com­mit­ted adults. And they need a sense of iden­ti­ty and belong­ing,” Gas­ca-Gon­za­lez said. Through increased col­lab­o­ra­tion and youth advo­ca­cy here in Bal­ti­more and else­where, we are part­ners in help­ing our young peo­ple thrive as adults and con­nect­ed mem­bers of their fam­i­lies and communities.”

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