New Leaders Join Jim Casey Initiative in Iowa

Posted February 6, 2024
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
A racially diverse assemblage of hands are in the act of coming together for a group high five

The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Jim Casey Youth Oppor­tu­ni­ties Ini­tia­tive® — which focus­es on old­er youth in fos­ter care as they pre­pare for adult­hood — announces new part­ners to lead its Iowa site.

The Iowa Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS) and the Eve­lyn K. Davis Cen­ter for Work­ing Fam­i­lies (EKDC) at Des Moines Area Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege are helm­ing the Ini­tia­tive’s sup­port of Iowa’s old­er youth who have spent time in fos­ter care. This work includes:

  • part­ner­ing with youth and young adults on pol­i­cy and prac­tice changes;
  • teach­ing finan­cial lit­er­a­cy; and
  • ensur­ing access to the ser­vices, rela­tion­ships and oppor­tu­ni­ties youth need to be healthy and safe.

Since 2004, the Jim Casey Ini­tia­tive’s Iowa site has main­ly focused on young peo­ple in Des Moines and near­by coun­ties. The new lead­er­ship team aims to expand ser­vices to young peo­ple in the state’s rur­al and urban communities.

Col­lab­o­rat­ing to Strength­en Fam­i­lies in Iowa

Kay­la Pow­ell, nation­al youth in tran­si­tion data­base and youth devel­op­ment coor­di­na­tor at Iowa HHS, has been a Jim Casey Fel­low since 2015. She will serve as the Iowa site’s co-leader and is the first Jim Casey Fel­low to do so.

Pow­ell will share lead­er­ship duties with Robert Bibens, an Oppor­tu­ni­ty Pass­port® pro­gram coach at EKDC, an orga­ni­za­tion that pro­vides career resources and job train­ing to Cen­tral Iowa residents.

The Iowa part­ner­ship com­bines the resources of a gov­ern­ment agency and a com­mu­ni­ty non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion already known for strength­en­ing fam­i­lies,” says Cather­ine Lester, asso­ciate direc­tor of the Casey Foundation’s Fam­i­ly Well-Being Strat­e­gy Group. We are eager to see how this col­lab­o­ra­tion will build on past suc­cess­es and mul­ti­ply efforts to ensure that young peo­ple in Iowa who have spent time in fos­ter care have the rela­tion­ships, ser­vices and oppor­tu­ni­ties need­ed to thrive.”

Sup­port­ing Old­er Iowa Youth in Fos­ter Care

In 2021, 42% of the old­er youth who exit­ed fos­ter care in Iowa aged out with­out per­ma­nent, legal con­nec­tions to fam­i­ly or care­givers, accord­ing to state data from the Casey Foundation’s Fos­ter­ing Youth Tran­si­tions 2023 report.

By expand­ing ser­vices, the site lead­ers hope to increase the num­ber of young peo­ple in Iowa’s fos­ter care sys­tem who enter adult­hood with the resources and rela­tion­ships they need to succeed.

Watch: New Mex­i­co improved its Med­ic­aid claims sys­tem to increase fund­ing for youth services

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