AOI is excited to announce the 2019 AOI Awards Program winners!  Our panel of peer judges selected two excellent programs to be recognized. Read more about them below.

Click here to download the award winners’ strategy papers.

Safe Families for Children: Relationships Award

(Illinois) Safe Families PLUS (Providing Lasting Unconditional Support) Mentors are key partners in helping older youth successfully transition to adulthood. Mentors are paired with a youth or young adult between the ages of 14 to 21, close to aging out of the foster care system, or that have just aged out, and are expected to commit to at least a year of meeting on a consistent basis. Mentors can serve as “anchor families” to youth, providing a safety net to fall back on after leaving the child welfare system. Mentors come alongside the youth to provide them with support that endures.

Through consistent, one-on-one contact, mentors help youth explore their self-identity, talents, strengths, and career interests. These relationships open their eyes to new experiences, teach them basic life skills and know-how to help them survive as an adult in the ‘real world’ and builds a network of support that ensures the youth is not alone and does not feel alone. Safe Families PLUS is a program of Safe Families for Children Alliance, which provides volunteer host families for children whose parents are desperate, low-income and need support to stabilize and parent their children well.

A Safe Families mentor work with placing parents while other volunteers care for children, freeing parents up to stabilize. The needs of youth that are too old to be served by our traditional program were very evident, so in 2016, Safe Families PLUS launched in order to address the specific needs of youth about to age of our foster care, and for those young adults who have recently aged out and have little other support. Safe Families PLUS provides mentor options and youth choose their mentor and the mentor commits to building a relationship with the youth and intentionally guiding them into adulthood, connecting them to others for the sake of friendships, finding work, and support. In addition, Safe Families PLUS also provides different classes and fun opportunities just for mentors and their mentees to attend, from open-mic fun nights, to cooking and financial budgeting classes to how to succeed at a job interview.

“Safe Families PLUS is thrilled to receive this award from the Aging out Institute and to be recognized as an organization helping foster youth transition into adulthood successfully," shares Brittani Kindle, Director for Safe Families PLUS in Chicago. "PLUS believes in a model of consistent and collaborative support founded in relationships because this is what many of our youth seem to miss out on most when they enter the child welfare system. It is our hope that more and more organizations with similar missions can begin to work together to share strategies and resources, in order to improve the outcomes for this important population that so desperately deserves better from all of us.”

Brittani KindleSafe Families PLUS Director

City Living NY: Life Skills & Holistic Services Awards

(New York) City Living NY (CLNY) is a comprehensive and innovative program that empowers youth aging out of foster care in New York City. Our mission is to empower youth aging out of foster care to successfully transition into adulthood by providing concrete resources, tools, and support services. In our first four years, CLNY has worked with 100 young people to set up their homes and supported them in working toward their educational, employment, and socio-emotional goals. We begin work when the youth age out of care to provide both short- and long-term support. CLNY social workers maintain weekly contact with all young people to check in to ensure housing stability, progress toward goals, and overall emotional well-being. On the career front, CLNY assists youth with resume writing and job searches, career counseling, and interview readiness. Many of our youth have gained employment because of these efforts. CLNY assists young people with education needs as well, helping college youth with tuition issues, internship guidance and re-enrollment challenges.

For our non-college enrolled youth, we make referrals to appropriate GED programs, and help them plan for the future. CLNY provides youth with mental health referrals, individual financial planning, and parenting items. We host a variety of workshops to help our youth succeed, including classes on nutrition, budgeting, and even yoga classes. Most importantly, social workers assure housing stability; since inception over 40% of our clients have needed some sort of housing intervention. While the overall statistics on former foster youth rates of homelessness are staggering, with one in four youth homeless within three years of leaving care, 100% of CLNY clients currently remain in their apartments. We hope to continue to scale this work and ensure that every former foster youth has a support system to help ensure a successful transition into adulthood, and to eradicate homelessness as an expected possible outcome for this population.

“We are immensely honored to be recognized by Aging Out Institute's 2019 Award Program. There are many great programs across the country serving former foster youth, so we were humbled to receive the award for both Life Skills and Holistic programming. We are proud of the work our organization does to ensure youth aging out of foster care in NYC remain stably housed, learn real world independent living skills, and reach their full potential through continuing education and employment opportunities. These awards are a great statement to our team of amazing social workers that they are making a real impact in the lives of our youth, and that we are so proud of the work they are doing in our community. When foster care ends, our work begins.”

Liz NorthcuttFounder and Executive Director