Youth who have aged out of foster care have a new tool to help them navigate the critical resources they need to transition successfully into adulthood. A new phone app, called GRiD MKE, officially launched Feb. 2, 2017.
The app was made possible by a technology grant from the Tellier Foundation and contains hundreds of resources in the areas of education, employment, health and housing as well as basic or emergency needs, like food and clothing pantries.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett was in attendance; along with the Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families (DCF), Eloise Anderson; and the Director of the Bureau of Youth Services at the DCF, Wendy Henderson. SaintA participants included CEO Teri Zywicki, Executive Vice President Ann Leinfelder Grove, Digital Media Specialist Jeff Matthias and the Independent Living Services staff.
In 2016, Zywicki made Innovation one of the agency’s core values and sees this app as an example of innovation in human services.
Innovation in Human Services – and in Youths’ Hands
“Our phones are used for everything. We take photos and do our banking – we can even file our taxes on our phones,” said Mayor Tom Barrett at the launch party in SaintA’s Franciscan Center. “It’s imperative we give youth who are aging out of foster care that same kind of access to the tools needed to navigate life.”
Secretary Anderson’s message was similar. “When youth age out of out-of-home care, who is going to help them finish their education, find a place to live, get a job or even create a resume? They need access to healthcare and other resources so they don’t have to go at it alone,” she said. “The app closes the gap by putting resources in their hands.”
Created with Input from Milwaukee Youth
Youth were also on hand to talk about who will benefit most from this app. Malcolm Miller was homeless for about two years until he became a client of SaintA Independent Living Services (ILS). “I’m so happy the app is here, this is going to help a lot of young people like myself just starting out,” he said. Malcolm’s sentiments were echoed by Lariah Allen, a young adult client from Lad Lake. “The app is really going to help us maintain independence; it feels good to be able to do research on my own. Finding answers for myself is more empowering than if my case manager found all the answers for me.”
Malcolm and the event’s Master of Ceremony, Wilton Johnson of Owen’s Place, both provided input during the early stages of app development. Johnson is also a former foster youth and was a client of SaintA’s ILS program.
Many Resources in One Place
The GRiD MKE community consists of SaintA and these and other partners: 2-1-1 Impact; Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee; Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Community Services; Coalition for Children, Youth and Families; Journey House; LaCausa; Lad Lake; MATC; Milwaukee Public Schools; Pathfinders; Pearls for Teen Girls; Neighborhood House; and Wisconsin Department of Children and Families and Wisconsin DCF Office of Youth Services.