My Life, a foster care project at the Regional Research Institute at Portland State’s School of Social Work, received national recognition last month from the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington, D.C. It was one of 15 foster youth support projects selected by the CSSP, of 155 submissions.
My Life is a two-year project that helps teens transition from foster care into adulthood. The project reaches out to teens in the Department for Human Services foster care program within the Portland metro area who are between 16 and 18 years of age.
“[The My Life] project is about the youth,” said
Laurie Powers, one of the co-leaders for My Life. “We will support them and work with them through their ups and downs.”
The project first began when it received grants from the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Education. The grants were given to My Life for a five-year pilot study, which focused on teens in special education and those with disabilities in foster care.
After the pilot study received positive feedback, the group decided that the project could be successful in helping all foster care teens.
Powers said that the main reason for transforming the project was “to show the project works for everyone.
“We reach out to every youth in care within that age range,” she added.
When the teens first agree to be a part of the program, they are randomly selected to be put into one of two groups. One group receives a year of coaching while the other does not. This is done to measure the impact of coaching on teens.
Another aspect of the project is group activities, like bowling and miniature golf. Powers said that group activities have an impact on the teens because they’re able to socialize with others who may be able to understand what they’re going through.
“The youth enjoy getting together with other youth and other adults,” Powers said.
Powers also mentioned that one of the major questions that the project is trying to answer is, “if we suppose youth to be more in charge of their lives, will they be more successful in their lives?”
So far, the project has shown that the teens in the coaching group have showed a higher employment rate and more self-determination than the group without coaches.
Powers hopes that this data will help them improve the project for teens by offering more effective services.