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Bright Spots Series: Collaboration in Action

We are excited to share the progress of our new direction. We will be following and reporting out through this newsletter the work of our Collaborative partners. Each edition, will highlight organizations that are collaborating to meet the needs of children and their families. Though now just at the beginning stages of development, in time, we expect to be able to demonstrate just how our focus of work is creating lasting opportunities and changes to those we serve. So be sure to check back each month.

Fostering Youth Opportunities

“One caring adult can make a difference in the life of these youth. With this collaboration, we’re creating a community of caring adults.” – Nancy Carter, Executive Director, Independent Living Resources

According to national estimates, approximately 20,000 children age out of foster care each year. In our community, Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake Counties, there are roughly 1,600 youth in foster care at any one point, with 70 aging out of the system each year. Typically between the ages of 18-21, youth exit the foster care system and enter a new phase of independence with little to no resources helping them assume adult responsibilities.

Research shows that young people in foster care are far more likely than their peers in the general population to face adversities such as poverty and unemployment. These young people also face challenging odds:

  • More than 1 in 5 will become homeless after age 18
  • Merely 58% will graduate high school by age 19, compared to 87% nationally
  • Fewer than 3% will earn a college degree by age 25, compared to 285 nationally
  • 1 in 4 will be incarcerated within 2 years of leaving the foster care system

We are working to change these outcomes through an integrated service delivery model that engages partners around specific, targeted young people.

Approach: Fostering Youth Opportunities (FYO) in Wake County was UWGT’s first investment toward this new approach. Beginning in March of 2014, we helped bring together four independent agencies to work holistically with youth aging out of foster care.

As our first Collaborative, FYO works intensively with 15 foster care youth to create a comprehensive and easily accessible support system built around improving their housing situation, finding employment by providing job-readiness skills, and giving them the financial management tools necessary to become independent adults.  Youth-centered and driven, all FYO programs are built on the construct that in order for young people to reach the ultimate goal of self-sufficiency, they must be the owners of the plan. Though directed by an assortment of volunteers, guides and advocates, it is ultimately the youth who determine their own life course.

Partners in the Collaborative

FYO is composed of four agencies, each working toward a collective goal:

The Hope Center at Pullen serves as the backbone organization. They provide case management to each youth in the Collaborative. The Center works with the youth to chart out and implement a plan for adult self-sufficiency.

PLM Families Together helps the youth establish housing goals and strategies for achievement. Based on their individual circumstances, youth work with PLM to create a roadmap for sustainable housing.

Wake Technical Community College offers both degree and non-degree courses through The Fostering Bright Futures Program to improve a young person’s opportunity to earn a living wage in the future.

Wake County LINKS serves as the primary referral agency for the FYO Collaborative, helping the agencies identify the youth in foster care who might benefit from the Collaborative’s services.


In its first year FYO showed strong growth and development, which resulted in some really positive changes for the participating youth. Working with 15 foster care youth FYO has reported the following:

  • 15 youth achieved safe housing
  • 10 youth became employed
  • 7 youth increased their income
  • 2 youth increased their savings
  • 3 youth achieved enough income to become financial stable and independent
  • 2 youth enrolled in High School or GED
  • 8 youth enrolled in post-secondary education

(Note: not all youth required each available service)

FYO is increasing the number of youth they serve. By the end of the second year, FYO hopes to have all 35 participants achieve similar successes.

Going Forward: The lessons learned have been instrumental in informing our process across all the Collaboratives we fund and support. In fact, as FYO has been broadly evaluated as a successful model and has been expanded across our three other counties. Durham, Johnston, and Orange are in the process of developing similar FYO models. From what we have learned in developing and supporting FYO in Wake County, we are confident in the potential for these added counties in meeting the needs of these youth who are about to find themselves in sudden adulthood. By putting young people at the center of services, they have a supportive network to gain self-confidence and the skills they need to work toward living the life of their dreams.