July 2023 News

Program Updates

Project LIFE Welcomes New Staff Member

The Project LIFE team is excited to introduce the new Independent Living Consultant for the Western Region of VA: Amber Steffey! Amber joined the team in June and is already planning for summer events in her region.
While new to UMFS, Amber has worked with independent living youth in Foster Care previously. She worked as a Family Services Specialist with the Virginia Department of Social Services for 11 and a half years. During her time there, she worked as a Foster Care worker and a Child Protective Services worker. She has a strong desire to help and support children, while seeing them become successful in their lives.
As she gets settled, Amber will begin working with youth and professionals in her region. If you are in this region, introduce yourself to Amber and visit the Western webpage.

Youth Welfare Approach Webpage

Project LIFE is proud to unveil a new page on our website dedicated to the Youth Welfare Approach. Because of the unique needs of youth, the Virginia Department of Social Services is embarking on a different framework to engage youth, entitled the Youth Welfare Approach (YWA). This approach more adequately addresses the strengths and needs of youth and young adults. Along with resources posted on our page, we also have a calendar hub for YWA trainings. Project LIFE will be hosting trainings for all professionals from LDSSs and private providers on the YWA. Visit this page to sign up and learn more.

Upcoming Statewide Events

Casey Life Skills Assessment Changes & Transition Plan Training

Dates: July 18 + August 8, 2023 | Times: 2:00 p.m. + 10:00 a.m. for  Professionals via Zoom
Project LIFE will be hosting virtual statewide training for LDSSs and private providers working with older youth in foster care. Join us to learn about recent changes to the Casey Life Skills Assessment (CLSA). As of April 11, 2022, the CLSA website stopped processing new assessments. On May 9, 2022, all youth data maintained on the Casey Life Skills Assessment website was deleted. All LDSS workers who are responsible for conducting CLSAs will need to download the new CLSA toolkit. Project LIFE will help explain the changes and will train on how to utilize the new formats of the assessment. After registering, participants will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting. Reach out to gmack@umfs.org with any questions. 

Talk it Out Tuesdays Remixed

Date: July 18, 2023 | Time: 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. for Youth via Ring Central and continuing the third Tuesday of every month
(RETURNING TO EVENINGS.) Talk it out Tuesdays is back and is “remixed.” On the third Tuesday of the month, youth can take advantage of a safe space to connect with their peers. Youth can bring their own topics to chat about, or the group can talk about the topic of the month. Register once and attend as many as you want! (Note: there is a new meeting link as of August 25, 2022.) Reach out to Melissa with questions.

Week of LIFE: College Tour Edition

Dates: July 24-27, 2023 | Times: check the tour list below, for Youth  (Parents and workers are welcome to register, too), in-person around the state
Project LIFE invites youth to explore secondary educational options with us during our statewide Week of LIFE: College Tour edition! During the last week in July, all regions will host 1-2 tours at community colleges and/or 4 year colleges. There is one registration form for all 9 tours, so please join us for all tours that you are interested in. Remember to wear walking shoes! More information around meeting places and time will be provided in an email to registrants, and reach out to the PL consultant hosting the tour for more specific info. We will see you there! 

  • Northern Monday: July 24th – James Madison University (JMU) at 2:00 pm
  • Eastern Tuesday: July 25th – Tidewater Community College (TCC) at 10:00 am
  • Eastern Tuesday: July 25th – Old Dominion University (ODU) at 1:00 pm 
  • Piedmont Tuesday: July 25th – Central VA Community College (CVCC) at 10:00 am 
  • Piedmont Tuesday: July 25th – Liberty University (LU) at 12:30 pm 
  • Central Wednesday: July 26th – Reynolds Community College (RCC) (Parham Rd. Campus) at 10:00 am  
  • Central Wednesday: July 26th – Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) at 2:00 pm 
  • Western Thursday: July 27th – Virginia Highlands Community College (VHCC) at 9:00 am 
  • Western Thursday: July 27th – Emory and Henry College (EHC) at 12:30 pm 

Project LIFE Reunion

Date: August 9, 2023 | Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. for Everyone! Staff, Current and Alumni Youth and Professionals at UMFS, RVA
Project LIFE is turning 15! Save the date to join us as we celebrate the history and evolution of the Project LIFE program and its impact in Virginia over the last 15 years! There will be a brief program, food, music, vendors, and fun as we celebrate as a community! Register using the button below and reach out to Sophia with questions.

Youth Welfare Approach Training

Date: August 16, 2023 | Time: 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. for Professionals via Zoom
LDSS and private provider professionals in the state of VA are invited to join this Youth Welfare Approach training through Zoom. Provided by the Project LIFE team, this interactive workshop will highlight practical ways to apply the Youth Welfare Approach with youth in your care. These ways will effectively engage youth to become more actively involved in their case planning. Key concepts of this training will include shifting our lens from child welfare to youth welfare, and utilizing a good-better-best continuum in youth service provision. Register using the button below, and contact George Mack through email at gmack@umfs.org if you need more information.

Upcoming Regional and Hybrid Events

Central Region’s SoulFULL Sundays

Date: July 9, 2023 | Time: 11:00 a.m. for Youth at UMFS, RVA
Let’s face it, we know many life transitions and transformations occur during the teen years. Bodies mature, thinking ability improves, and teens learn to manage many new emotions. Teens are striving to “find themselves” and to answer the question, “Who am I?” The answers to such questions often include a spiritual search for meaning and purpose in life. Join Project LIFE in gaining a 

  • greater sense that life is meaningful and purposeful. 
  • lower anxiety and stress 
  • more positive social interactions with friends 
  • more friends who are positive influences 
  • greater success in future stages of life.  

Project LIFE will host a watch party/church, spiritual/holistic event for youth interested in fellowship. RSVP with T. Murphy @ tmurphy@umfs.org. 

Central Region’s Chef-N-It-UP with Colin

Date: July 11, 2023 | Time: 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. for Youth at Virginia Home for Boys & Girls Campus
Join Project LIFE, T. Murphy and Colin Jones from Virginia Homes for Boys & Girls as we share a cooking experience with youth interested in learning to cook and prepare some basic meals.  Seats are limited and we predict they will fill up fast.

Learn to cook and prepare tasty meals that will combat obesity and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Keep in mind that meals don’t have to be fancy but once you learn the basics and get comfortable in the kitchen, you will start to realize how simple and satisfying a home cooked meal can be. Other benefits to learning to cook are also learning to grocery shop and meal plan. Beginners or experienced, we would love to have you join us and share in some culinary fun! Register now and get your EAT on!!! Register by contacting tmurphy@umfs.org.  

Piedmont Region’s Casey Life Skills Assessment Training

Dates: July 12, 2023 + July 19, 2023 | Time: 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. + 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. For Professionals, via Ring Central
The Piedmont Region will be hosting 4 separate virtual opportunities to hear all about the Casey Life Skill Assessments! This will be an opportunity for any interested in an updated training or a refresher for the Casey Life Skills to log on. Please RSVP with Cierra, at cemory-clegg@umfs.org, for the link or with any questions. 

Central Region’s Adventure Bus Crew Program

Date: July 18, 2023 | Time: TBA for Youth at UMFS, RVA
Join UMFS Support Coach, Caroline Tobe, and Project LIFE for a new adventure! The Adventure bus program intends to go beyond the basic training of riding the bus and help clients fully access their community. PLIFE and Caroline Tobe intend to carry a voice amplifier/microphone to guide the tours between stops when transferring, giving history and information lessons on destinations. The tour will teach clients the PULSE Bus Routes, GRTC Routes and transfer routes.  PLIFE & Caroline will teach the circle of courage skills through teaching bus and bus stop safety skills. Students will learn a sense of belonging and community through being bus crew members. Youth will learn generosity through sharing experiences with their peers, assisting peers with budgeting their spending money at shops, coffee shops, thrift stores, festivals, gift shops and grocery stores along bus routes.
Registration required! If interested, please contact T.Murphy@umfs.org.

Central Region’s Parenting Together Group

Date: July 19, 2023 and continuing monthly | Time: 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. for Youth in-person at UMFS, RVA
Any Virginia youth, aged 14-23, who has experienced foster care and is a parent, or soon to be parent, to a young child is invited to attend this peer support group. This group will learn together in a safe space while relating with other peers in the same stage of parenthood. Attendees can bring their child(ren) with them to this group, and will be connected to resources, local experts, and prizes/gifts. If you would like to attend or have questions, please contact T at tmurphy@umfs.org.

Central Region’s CAR CARES

Date: July 28, 2023 | Time: 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p,m. for Youth at in-person at UMFS, RVA
Join Project LIFE’s special guest, Tony Fowler, whose accomplishments include being a UMFS resource parent, a NASCAR Mechanic and a TonMAR Eng. & MFG. Corp business owner! All PL youth, ages 14-23, in the Central region, whether you have a car now or plan to one day, are invited to attend. Project LIFE is partnering with a local expert to share car info around How often to get service, how to recognize car needs, and how to perform some basic car care tasks. If you would like to attend or have questions, please contact T. Murphy at tmurphy@umfs.org.

Eastern Region’s Voices Youth Group

Dates: July 10-13 + July 31-August 3, 2023 | Time: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. for Youth at UMFS, VA Beach
Two new cohorts are beginning in July! Voices is a youth empowerment program for youth in foster care or have been in foster care to equip them with resources and tools to be successful as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. We are looking for youth ages 14-18.

The program will offer modules that focus on self-exploration (what are the labels that have been given to them over time and how to let go of the ones that no longer work), self-care, anger management, problem solving with the seven resiliencies, personal integrity (exploring personality and character), goal setting/creating new habits, resilience, forgiveness, and breaking the cycle.

This new group will begin meeting in July. The first will be a female session and the male session will take place at the end of the month. For more information and for registration contact mlee@umfs.org.

Additional Events and Resources

VDSS Youth Services (IL) Updates Corner

Free Summer Gym Memberships through Planet Fitness

Ends: August 31, 2023 | for Eligible Youth
Read this info from the Planet Fitness website: “Now through August 31st, teens between the ages of 14-19 can work out for free all summer long! Plus, we’re giving away $200,000 to high schools and students! Teens who register can help win a grant for their school and participate in a video contest for a chance to win a scholarship. Don’t wait, register here today.”

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