Child Welfare Ideas From the Experts, #3: Internship Programs for Aging Out Teens

Wilo Muyoma, 21, Foster Youth Intern for Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.)

The Chronicle of Social Change is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 11 former foster youths who completed Congressional internships. The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, with support from the Sara Start Fund.

Each of the FYI participants crafted a carefully researched policy recommendation during their time in Washington. Today, we highlight the recommendation of Wilo Muyoma, 21, and undergraduate student at Whitworth University and former Microsoft internship.

The Proposal

A portion of John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program funding in each state should be earmarked for an internship program modeled on the success of Year Up and the Microsoft Apprentice Program. Such programs should be available for foster youths who are 14 and older, and deemed likely to age out of foster care.

Further, Congress should incentivize companies to hire foster youths by reauthorizing the Work Opportunity Tax Credit and include older foster youths as a target group.

The Argument

Only 48 percent of foster youth were employed four years after aging out of care, according to the Midwest Study of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth, as compared to 72 percent of youth in the general population.

According to early inputs to the National Youth in Transition Database, only 28 percent of the youth had employment experiences by age 17.

Muyoma cites research from the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative that suggests career services should begin at age 14. Federal Chafee rules allow states to choose the age at which they will initiate employment services, and many states choose to do so at 15 or older.

In His Own Words

“I have known many youth who aged out of care and were unable to find employment. They could not compete for jobs because they lacked the skills that employers considered essential for entry-level jobs. I was fortunate enough to overcome these disadvantages by…participating in the Microsoft Apprentice Program.”

The Chronicle’s Take

A sound idea. Our concern is this: Chafee is already a pretty modest investment in transition services at $140 million, before one gets to slicing parts out for dedicated programs. We wonder if there is a better fit for this type of program at the Department of Labor; perhaps through the Workforce Investment Act Youth Activities, which as funded at $820.4 million this year.

Another option at Labor: partnering with Job Corps in some way. According to this press relations website for the program, “Job Corps continues to look for new ways to engage with the foster care community and strengthen our existing outreach on both the local and national levels.”

Click here to read Muyoma’s entire proposal and those of her fellow FYI participants.

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1 Comment

  1. I was a foster parent for 13 teenage girls who had been physically and/or sexually abused. I only had them for a short time and quickly became aware that they didn’t have even basic knowledge such as how to balance a checkbook. I was just barely able to give them some basic knowledge before they were “aged out”. My birth daughters had my support long after they reached 18. We need to give foster children all the help we possibly can to help them succeed. I think that internships could build not only skills but also self-esteem. Thank you for this proposal.

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