Spotlight: Older Youth Services
Teens in Indiana who age out of foster care have access to critical assistance as they transition into adulthood thanks to The Villages’ Older Youth Services Program. Since 2012, Older Youth Services has been the safety net for teens ages 16 to 21 by helping them obtain a high school diploma/GED, work experience and housing. Moreover, this vital program gives young adults a solid foundation for good decision-making skills on their path to independence.
“Some of our former foster youth have difficulty making decisions when they are on their own (as adults) because they grew up in the system and are accustomed to being told what to do in every aspect of their lives,” said Devon Jones, the program’s director. “We’re here to help them how to make healthy decisions on their own.”
Currently, 280 young adults are in the program with 80 graduating high school this month. Jones said the majority of those graduates will attend college this fall or have attained employment. Older Youth Services staff will be with them every step of the way by helping these young adults find their first apartment, provide essential items for their new home and provide rental fee assistance, in some circumstances.
Two new laws go into effect July 1 to provide additional support to these young adults. Teens who age out of foster care will automatically remain on Medicaid until age 26.
In addition, a new law takes effect that removes major obstacles for teens in foster care who want to obtain a driver’s license. Youth in foster care often face challenges obtaining a driver’s license due to the expense and lack of an adult to sign for liability insurance. Under the new law, youth in foster care will be able to get an Indiana driver’s license at no charge.
Jones, who testified at legislative meetings in support of the Medicaid bill, admits challenges remain for young adults in foster care despite these efforts. Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) covers the cost of driver’s education for teens in foster care, but a strategy is needed to help them get the remaining hours required after the program – 40 hours during the day and 10 hours at night.
Jones said he is interested in partnering with local driver’s education companies with donated dollars to help those in OYS achieve those remaining hours to get their driver’s license.
Learn more about Older Youth Services here.