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Tennessee first to expand help to all former foster children

October 30, 2013
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (right) speaks with youth who are part of Youth Villages' transitional living program for teens aging out of foster care.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (right) speaks with youth who are part of Youth Villages’ transitional living program for teens aging out of foster care.

NASHVILLE – Oct. 30, 2013 – Through a public-private partnership with Youth Villages, Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services will offer intensive community-based services to each of the more than 1,000 young people who turn 18 in state custody each year without being reunited with their birth families or being adopted.

This makes Tennessee the first in the nation to offer comprehensive services to help all foster children who age out of state custody. A national nonprofit organization, Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to troubled children and their families in Tennessee.

Governor Bill Haslam joined DCS Commissioner Jim Henry for the announcement along with several key members of the state legislature, and Youth Villages CEO Patrick Lawler.

“Investing in these young people now will mean huge gains not only for them as individuals but for our communities as a whole far into the future,” said Gov. Haslam.

The announcement highlighted a peer-to-peer educational event at Youth Villages that included more than 50 transitional living program participants who worked on such employment skills as practicing job interviews, developing resumes, learning how to dress professionally, getting tips on managing parental responsibilities while working and meeting with coaches and mentors.

Approximately 26,000 young adults age out of foster care every year in the United States. National studies have found that, with limited resources and supports, these young people are more likely than their peers to end up homeless or incarcerated and less likely to have a job or go to college.

In contrast – even two years after completing Youth Villages’ transitional living program – about 80 percent of participants are living independently or with family; are in school, graduated or employed; and are crime-free.

The program, begun through funding from the late Memphis philanthropist Clarence Day in 1999 and expanded through the support of the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, has helped more than 5,000 young people so far.

In an effort to provide additional support to former foster youth, the state opted into the Fostering Connections program, allowing young people who meet certain requirements to stay in their foster homes until age 21. Tennessee DCS also offers independent living services and supports other programs for this population by leveraging federal funds.

“Tennessee provides more resources for these young people than any other state in the country,” the commissioner said. “And we’ve gone even further, working with Youth Villages to help develop and test this highly effective model for helping former foster youth.”

Through the partnership with Tennessee DCS, Youth Villages’ transitional living program is in the fourth year of a rigorous randomized evaluation designed to test the program’s outcomes as compared to traditional services available in the community. The study, coordinated by MDRC, nonprofit education and social policy research organization, and Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, has followed more than 1,200 Tennessee young people and should yield preliminary results next year.

Additional resources:

10-year Transitional Living Report (PDF) Transitional Living 10-year overview in Tennessee (PDF) Tennessee Expansion of TL fact sheet (PDF)
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