Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)/Prince George’s County describes its receipt of a 2019 Many Hands Partner Grant as “transformative” for its efforts to help transition-aged youth (14-21) living in foster care navigate the important milestones that prepare a young person to live indendently.

For many years, CASA has partnered with the Department of Social Services (DSS) and other community service providers to prepare transition-aged youth for adulthood. Recognizing that youth transitioning out of foster care are at higher risk for unemployment, poor educational outcomes, health issues, early parenthood, long-term dependency on public assistance, incarceration, and homelessness, CASA understood the urgency of preparing its young clients to seek and maintain stable employment. Many Hands funding allowed CASA to implement a more targeted, data-driven approach to job readiness that builds on the unique one-on-one assistance that CASA volunteers provide.

With the $58,500 Partner Grant, CASA launched a new Job Readiness Initiative to prepare foster youth to emancipate with job readiness skills and employment opportunities. The initiative created a new role, the Senior Case Supervisor for Transition-Aged Youth, charged with providing direct job readiness support to transition-aged youth and specialized training to their CASA volunteers. Phillip Lartigue, who was promoted to the role of Senior Case Supervisor, meets weekly with his DSS counterparts to share data and ensue that the two organizations are working hand in hand. Critically, he provides training to CASA volunteers to ensure that they are aware of DSS requirements for youth, such as completing an assessment and developing job readiness and employment goals, and can provide the necessary guidance and support.

In its first year, the Job Readiness Initiative connected 40 transition-aged youth to programs offering soft skills training, GED preparation, and technical training in such fields as customer service, HVAC, performing arts, and healthcare. Participants also received assistance in creating resumes and one-on-one coaching to help them secure employment. Once they found employment, their CASA volunteers continued to provide support in seeking advancement, transportation assistance, and long-term goal setting.

In addition, CASA/Prince George’s County leveraged the Many Hands grant to scure additional funding from foundation and corporate sponsors such as Sharing Prince George’s, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing and to enter into a partnership with Lyft, which helps provide transportation for youth traveling to and from training programs, interviews, and their first days at work.

Too many youth in foster care begin their first employment search on their own with no one to help them complete the application, prepare for the interview, manage the daily commute and work through the frustrations that come with working in a new environment. CASA/Prince George’s County’s Job Readiness Initiative gives transition-aged youth the support they need to suceed.