Connected By 21
The Division of Family & Children Services bolsters children on their path to adulthood through a variety of programs that support their education, their readiness for the job market and their social well-being. The Connected by 21 program seeks to bridge the gap between adolescence and adulthood and provide youth who are aging out of foster care with the social, educational, medical and financial foundation they need to live independently as adults.
Coined the “Connections Program,” participants must meet additional participation requirements such as being employed or attending secondary or post-secondary school. Through the Connections Program, the division hopes to inspire youth to:
- Prepare for their future through educational and employment training opportunities
- Find and secure consistent and safe housing
- Build permanent connections with caring adults, including relatives, mentors and community members
- Acquire vital life skills through training and leadership opportunities to live independently
In SFY 2020, DFCS hosted three youth townhall listening sessions to solicit input from youth in foster care for the development of the Connections Extension of Foster Care program policies. The Division coordinated this effort with its program partners, the Multiagency Alliance for Children and the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute. More than 120 youth attended these listening sessions and provided feedback on the key components of the extended foster care program, such as program eligibility, participation requirements, housing and other services. DFCS utilized this feedback to inform the policies for the Connections Extension of Foster Program. The Division will continue to support young adults in becoming more confident, productive individuals and is committed to helping them achieve lifelong success.
Since 2014, on average, 75% of the youth who turn 18 in the Georgia foster care system elect to remain in extended foster care. In 2019, 517 of the 700 youth who turned 18 decided that remaining in foster care was in their best interest.
COVID-19 support for foster youth
The Division supports an average of 350 youth each year with attending post-secondary institutions through the federal Education Training Voucher (ETV) program. Nearly one-third of those youth identified as residing in on-campus housing when campuses began to close in March 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Division’s Independent Living Program contacted each of the youth to determine whether they had existing support for housing, and helped those who didn’t identify available resources. The Division also provided additional stipends for ETV recipients through the remainder of the spring semester.