Imagine spending your young adult years in different foster homes, or being placed in emergency shelters because there isn’t a foster home available to take a teenager. Imagine getting ready to turn 18 and knowing that you have no place to go. Imagine having no family to turn to when you are trying to make some big decision in your life such as finding housing or employment.
As scary as this sounds, this scenario is a reality that many young adults who age out of the foster care system face every day. Young people are turning 18 and stepping out from under the care of the Department of Human Services (DHS) or Juvenile Court Services (JCS) with no supports in their lives.
The Iowa Aftercare Services Network is a state wide voluntary program available for young adults who have aged out of the DHS/JCS system. Young adults are assigned an advocate to connect them to resources and assist them with life decisions. These advocates are sometimes the only support that young people fresh out of the foster care system have to help them.
Foundation 2, a nonprofit human services agency based in Cedar Rapids, is one of nine agencies in the state subcontracted to support youth involved in the Iowa Aftercare Services Network. While the program is provided through all 99 counties in the State of Iowa, Foundation 2 is responsible for providing this service in Linn, Jones and Benton counties. In Fiscal Year 2018 Foundation 2’s Iowa Aftercare Services Network served 93 clients.
Iowa Aftercare Services Network Advocates assist with a long list of things that young adults might need. We often help clients apply to higher education and financial assistance, we help them apply for jobs and assist them with creating a resume, or to find safe and affordable housing. Young adults involved in the program are empowered to create goals that they would like to achieve and advocates help to develop the steps required to accomplishing those goals.
Another benefit of the Iowa Aftercare Services Network is the ability to provide financial support to our clients. This financial support helps vulnerable young people to pay bills and make ends meet while they learn the skills necessary to live independently.
One of the biggest barriers that young adults who age out of the system face is finding safe and affordable housing. It is difficult for our clients to find landlords or apartment complexes who are willing to take a risk on a young adult with no rental history, no co-signer, and limited (if any) work history. Landlords and apartment complexes that are willing to work with young adults often require double or sometimes triple deposit before a young adult can move in, which is cost prohibitive for our clients. Financial support from the Iowa Aftercare Services Network can bridge that gap and assist clients to move into a new house or apartment.
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As an advocate I get the pleasure of seeing my clients succeed at the goals that they set. Because my clients are still learning and growing, there are times that they make poor decisions as well. What I appreciate about this program is that advocates are able to stand by our clients and help them navigate through tough times to move toward future success. This program has been able to change young people’s lives and assist them with a good foundation for adulthood by the time they exit the program. The Iowa Aftercare Services Network at Foundation 2 is an amazing place to work. I get to see the growth, the struggle, the understanding, and the success of the young people I work with.
• Shelby Holsapple is a case manager for Foundation 2 Inc. where she has worked four and a half years.