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Oklahoma secretary of finance and DHS director announce public-private partnership to benefit older youth leaving foster care

November 4, 2015

Watch a recap from our Periscope live stream of the announcement.

Oklahoma Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger and Department of Human Services Director Ed Lake announced an innovative public-private partnership with nonprofit Youth Villages and the Sue Ann Arnall Family Foundation today.

YV-OK-DHS

Together, the partners will provide older youth aging out of foster care with comprehensive services through the YVLifeSet program. The Department presented Sue Ann Arnall with its Partner Award for her extraordinary support for this initiative to help children in foster care. Other Youth Villages private funders also participated.

“In times of tight state budgets like Oklahoma is facing, it has become critical for our state agencies to find innovative ways to provide core services,” said Doerflinger. “This partnership will serve as an exciting model of what is possible when private philanthropic organizations team up with government to achieve common goals and missions. Investment into this teen population not only benefits them, but benefits their families for generations and Oklahoma communities.”

DHS Director Ed Lake said that each year, around 300 teens age out of the foster care system without being reunited with their families or being adopted.

“Experience and research have shown us that without permanent family connections and the safety net families can provide, many of these teens aging out of foster care are less likely to graduate or go to college, become employed, and more likely to be homeless and incarcerated,” said Lake. “We know that many of these young people struggle with trauma caused by abuse and neglect, and for some, years growing up in the foster care system. This is not an overwhelming number of young people to serve and this is a problem we can positively affect with the right services and supports.”

While DHS offers some independent living services to youth while in care, the YVLifeSet program is the first statewide, comprehensive coordinated approach to helping youth aging out of foster care, said Lake.

Through this program, teens in foster care will be connected to Youth Villages’ specialists who work one-on-one, helping each young person develop the skills they need to be independent adults and connect to existing programs and services that are available to them from a variety of different agencies in communities around the state. YVLifeSet specialists will continue to work with the teens and be available to them up to age 22.

Without this innovative public-private partnership, Lake said DHS would not have the funds to offer a program like this on this scale.

The funding arrangement will allow DHS to reach its goal of providing help to all teens who age out of state custody. To make YVLifeSet available statewide will cost $12.7 million over the next five years. During that time, DHS will contribute 64 percent of the program costs using targeted federal funds, while private funders contribute 36 percent.

The Arnall Family Foundation has committed $4.8 million directly to support Youth Villages programs in Oklahoma, with $2.8 million targeted to support the launch of YVLifeSet over the next five years. Youth Villages is actively securing additional local and national funding partners for the initiative.

YVLifeSet will gradually expand to serve young people across the state. DHS began contracting with Youth Villages in July to provide the program in Oklahoma City. The program will be expanded to Tulsa in January and to Enid and Lawton in 2018. By the fifth year, the plan calls for the program to be serving 192 youth per day statewide, effectively making the program available to all youth aging out in the state. DHS plans to continue providing the services after the five-year statewide rollout.

“This is an opportunity to help the most vulnerable people in our society, youth without a family support system,” said Arnall. “By supporting programs such as YVLifeSet that have demonstrated positive results, I know that these young people will receive the mentoring and support that they were denied through circumstances beyond their control. It is very exciting to see the many ways the YVLifeSet program helps kids who age out of foster care and are suddenly on their own as they try to navigate life as adults. Our foundation is very proud to support a program that has such great results for these young people.”

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