Beginning January 1, 2018 SaintA will provide youth services for a larger number of youth throughout Milwaukee County with its Youth Transitioning to Adulthood (YTA) program. SaintA previously served about 50 young adults; the YTA program is projected to serve several times more than that.
The expansion is possible because of a contract with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.
Program Manager has Extensive Experience
As part of the expansion, SaintA has promoted Regina Branch to Youth Services Program Manager and has four full-time YTA case managers on staff. Branch has been with SaintA since November 2014, first as a Family Stability Specialist and most recently as a Family Services Supervisor.
Branch has provided oversight for initiatives such as Parent Cafes, which are often geared toward supporting young parents, and Community Outreach, which is a resource-driven, grassroots program.
“Regina brings with her extensive experience with in-home therapeutic services and community support, where youth are often at the center of care,” says SaintA Interim CEO, Ann Leinfelder Grove. “Her emphasis has always been on improving the trajectory for youth whether they are part of child welfare, the criminal justice system, or both.”
Housing Stability and More
Formerly called Independent Living Services, the SaintA YTA program has seen promising results in key stability areas for young adults, including housing, education, employment, health and caring connections (relationships).
In 2016, 95% of SaintA YTA clients, ages 18-24, had stable housing compared to 69% of youth in a study from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago called, the Midwest Evaluation of Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth: Outcomes at Age 26, (2011). Seventy-five percent of SaintA youth were employed, compared to 50% of youth in the Chapin Hall study.
In addition, about 30% of SaintA youth had completed or were currently enrolled in post-high school studies and 100% were enrolled in health insurance plans in 2016.
Support is Crucial for Youth Aging Out
Research shows youth who age out of foster care are at increased risk for homelessness, joblessness and related challenges, such as food insecurity and lack of proper healthcare.
“For 167 years, SaintA has responded to the needs of children and families in our community. We now stand poised to provide early intervention, and even prevention, for this very important and vulnerable demographic of youth aging out of foster care,” says Leinfelder Grove.
“When we look for better health, education and socioeconomic outcomes for our community, teens and young adults represent the most promise – when they are supported.”
Smartphone App for Aged-Out Youth
Early in 2017, SaintA launched a smartphone app specifically for youth aging out of foster care. It is one of many tools SaintA YTA and YTA Prep Case Managers will provide for clients moving forward. The app was made possible by a technology grant from Tellier Foundation.
Called GRiD MKE, the app was named and branded with input from YTA clients. The name speaks to how youth will too often live off the grid without proper support systems. Youth also consulted on the apps features, including free wi-fi calling, map functionality, and push notifications of job fairs and more. GRiD MKE is free and available to download for both Android and iOS devices.