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April 2000Vol. 1, No. 2Helping Hand in Implementing Independent Living

States can find help implementing the newly revamped Independent Living Program from the National Resource Center for Youth Development. This Children's Bureau-supported Resource Center provides technical assistance to States, localities, and Tribes in addressing the child welfare needs of youth. Specific resources for independent living programs include:

  • Strategic planning retreats for key stakeholders responsible for meeting the law's new requirement for a 5-year plan (free through regional office funding)
  • A website with a list of current State Independent Living Coordinators updated every 2 weeks and a chat room on independent living
  • A quarterly newsletter, Daily Living, available by subscription for $20 a year that features articles on foster youth and the national agenda.

In March, Center Director Jim Walker talked about foster youths' transitional needs at a national child welfare conference sponsored by the Children's Bureau. He outlined three core philosophies or values important for any successful Independent Living or Transitional Living program:

  • Youth Development. Agencies must be willing to let foster youth become involved in programs in a meaningful way. "They need to have the capacity and power to make suggestions and be heard and trained how to do it," said Walker.
  • Collaboration: None of us lives independently of some system of networks. Foster youth need to know how to connect with needed services.
  • Cultural Competence: Child welfare workers need to know enough about the culture of the youth they work with to meet their needs. "Different things make people feel better. People receiving services need to feel that the services they receive are helpful."

Walker also spotlighted the following innovative approaches to independent living programs around the country:

  • Several States offer free higher education tuition for youth in foster care
  • Residents of a group home in Oklahoma run a local McDonald's restaurant
  • Red Lobster restaurant Regional Managers in Oklahoma and Texas heavily recruit foster youth.
  • For one week out of every legislative session in Oklahoma, all pages are foster youth.

National Resource Center for Youth Development
University of Oklahoma
College of Continuing Education
4502 E. 41st St.
Tulsa, OK 74135
Tel.: 918-660-3700
Fax: 918-660-3737

Related Articles

See "Children's Bureau Issues Guidance on New Foster Care Independence Program" in this issue for an article regarding a recently released Federal Information Memorandum on the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program.

See Susan Kellam's article on ideas for implementing the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program at Connect for Kids, an online newsletter published by the Benton Foundation (