“The most rewarding part is seeing youth doing well, in school, living on their own, and having that support system with adults who are helping them be successful. We see the gifts that they have and we’re there to encourage them and support them on their journey.”
— TALIA BROWN
Project Manager, Project LIFE
Project LIFE (Living Independently, Focusing on Empowerment) helps youth in Virginia succeed when they age out of foster care. We do that by helping youth directly and by supporting the professionals who work with them. Our services help youth in foster care avoid homelessness, helplessness and hopelessness. Instead, they have the knowledge and support they need to get jobs, continue school, live decently and give back to their communities.
What we do
While youth are in foster care, decisions are often made for them rather than with them. When it comes time to live independently, they may not have the connections and skills to get a job, find housing or go back to school. Project LIFE fills that gap by helping them find permanent connections and giving them access to the resources they need.
We also partner with Departments of Social Services to ensure that workers have up-to-date and easily accessed resources. As part of that assistance, we help keep track of foster youth so they take the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) survey on which federal funding is based.
A partnership between UMFS and Virginia Department of Social Services, Project LIFE serves youth ages 14 to 21 in five regions of Virginia and collaborates with local departments of social services to prepare youth for success after foster care.
How we do it
Since 2009, we have helped youth get a solid start on their independent lives. We focus on five key areas to empower youth:
- Preparation and training: Project LIFE finds and creates opportunities for youth in foster care to prepare for independent living.
- Connection: We reach youth where they are — on social media — to provide encouragement, keep them up to date on services and give them useful information about their rights and benefits.
- Training speakers: In our Youth Network, young people learn to be articulate advocates for youth in foster care. They serve on panels and committees to ensure that the experience of foster care is understood by workers and by legislators. By joining the Network, youth in foster care or aging out of care build their confidence while changing the perspectives of others.
- Collaboration with local departments of social services: Project LIFE plays a leading role in gathering data for the National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD). We help social service departments locate youth for the NYTD survey and keep in touch with them after they leave care. Our joint efforts develop measureable outcomes that help gauge how well Virginia is doing in providing services to youth in foster care and how we can provide better, more effective services to them.
- Engagement and assistance: We provide training, support and resources to local departments of social services and private organizations to help youth in foster care achieve permanency and become engaged in their communities.