New Launching Pad Program Supports Adolescents Aging Out of Foster Care, Group Residences

1/10/12

                Seventeen-year-old “Anna” was acting out, stealing and skipping school when she was placed in a girls’ group home. When she turned 18 and was released from the home, she was referred to After Care, one of three components of an important new FSW initiative called Launching Pad, designed to provide support to older adolescents and young adults (16 to 24) in Westchester who have been involved with mental health and social service programs. The goal of Launching Pad is to help these teens and young adults transition successfully to independent living. Anna’s case worker developed an excellent rapport with the teen, and helped her graduate from high school with a Regents diploma. The social worker took Anna to a college Open House and drove her to take the placement exam for the school. Anna is now registered to attend this college in the spring, an accomplishment Anna claims would not have been possible without the help of her After Care case manager. 

                “We know there is a real void in services for adolescents aging out of foster care and residential living,” notes Susan Wayne, President and CEO of FSW.  “Launching Pad provides a supportive bridge for these adolescents and young adults. It offers them the support and resources to attend college and avoid risky behaviors, such as early pregnancy, gang involvement or substance abuse.”

Family Services of Westchester recently received grants from the New York Life Foundation, the Marion E. Kenworthy-Sarah H. Swift Foundation, and the Viola W. Bernard Foundation to enhance and expand the agency’s resources for these young adults, which now fall under the umbrella program, Launching Pad. Three components comprise Launching Pad:  Aftercare, which provides counseling services for youth and their families to ease the transition out of group residences, foster care and mental health support programs to independent living; Youth Forum, a twice-weekly support group for young adults who have received mental health services. Youth Forum encourages participants to gather information and tap into resources that will help them achieve independence; and a Special Assistance Fund to allow participants to take advantage of opportunities to help them succeed in life.  This fund  covers such items such as fees for SAT/ACT college preparation courses, GED courses and tutoring; appropriate clothing for job/college interviews; and transportation costs for work or education-related travel. 

“We are so grateful to these three foundations for helping FSW create Launching Pad, which will provide much-needed support and resources to this often overlooked population,” notes Wayne. “We know this is a successful model, so we are hoping to see real benefits to the young adults served through this program.”