Thursday, April 26, 2007

Matching funds for foster care youth and alumni


Graphic from www.jimcaseyyouth.org

Young people transitioning out of foster care are at a higher risk for dropping out of high school, becoming homeless, going to jail and having children at a young age. They often lack a safety net to catch them if they fall.

What can be done to assist them with this transition?

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative includes:

- A personal debit account for short-term expenses

- A matching savings account, also known as an Individual Development Account (IDA), to be used for specific assets, such as education expenses and housing down payments/deposits.

In Michigan, the state folded the Michigan Jim Casey sites into the Department of Human Services several years ago. But they still offer matching funds through the Michigan Youth Opportunities (MYOI) for foster care alumni who are saving money for an asset like a car or college education.

The matching funds come from a Jim Casey grant backed by the Annie E. Casey and the Marguerite Casey Foundations. Youth in the program can receive money for participating in MYOI events like the youth board and other outreach programs. But the idea is for them to deposit earned income, not grant money.

My friend, Bill Schramm, drew on MYOI support to support his own disc jockey service. He is a full-time student, majoring in business administration, at Northwestern Michigan College. Currently, he plans to utilize matching funds to make a downpayment on a house for him and his wife Laura.

As a young person aging out of foster care, the matching funds initiative offered Bill just the help that he needed.

"The initiative has been a phenomenal amount of assistance for me in changing my life around. I used to do a lot of negative things and now I’m a successful person. I’m married. I’ve got my own business. I’m full-time in college, I went back and got my GED because I had dropped out of school. This initiative has helped me out with all those things."

For more information, please visit www.jimcaseyyouth.org

Sources:
Ellison, Garret. Foster youth program hopes to promote fiscal responsibility. Traverse City Records-Eagle, April 26, 2007.

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