When a youth in foster care turns 18 the state is no longer legally or financially responsible for their well-being. At that young age, without family support, emancipated young people are thrust into the adult world alone. This stark reality is often referred to as “aging out” of foster care. Most youth who grow up in foster care are not equipped with the life skills necessary to become successful, healthy adults.
Our Leaders program was created to address this issue. It is a mentoring and skill-building program that provides a support network and opportunities to learn employment, health, and life skills in preparation for adulthood. The curriculum is based on research on the skills and resources that youth aging out need most. The program seeks guidance and feedback from all youth, empowering them to direct the program in the ways that suit their needs and sets them up for success.
Silver Lining brings life skills workshops to other youth-serving organizations on topics such as financial literacy and healthy relationships. Participants in Leaders also have the opportunity to engage in paid internships and leadership and advocacy opportunities. Our clinically-trained social workers meet with youth regarding their educational, employment and independent living goals. Staff work with youth to prepare resumes, obtain affordable housing, apply for health care, and identify career interests.
Learn & Earn is a matched savings initiative within Leaders for young adults who are 16 years old and older. Participants have the opportunity to engage in a year long life skills curriculum that engages young adults in various topics needed for a successful transition into adulthood. Upon completion of different experiential activities in the life skills curriculum, youth participants earn and save money to invest in an independent living asset of their choosing. Silver Lining matches the earnings of youth participants to help reward their saving habits and leverage their assets. Young adults have been able to earn and save for college tuition, security deposit and rent for their first apartment, laptops for school, and vocational training programs.
The life skills learning, mentoring and clinical support that make up the Learn & Earn program empower young people to avoid negative outcomes associated with time in foster care. Silver Lining understands that youth exiting care face intense challenges and emotional barriers and therefore has a policy that youth never age out of our programs. Our objective is for youth to understand that while foster care and aging out present uncontrollable changes in their lives, involvement in our programs can provide long term support, solidarity, and opportunities for growth to help them successfully transition to adulthood.