By: Julie P. Miller, Esq., Coordinator

The Delaware Youth Opportunities Initiative (DYOI), which became a program of the Delaware Center for Justice in January, works to ensure successful transitions for those aging out of foster care. Since its inception, DYOI has been working with the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families to complete an environmental scan to identify gaps in services and to help map out what the Initiative must focus on once the program is implemented.

Findings from the environmental scan confirm:

• Youth feel the effects of being placed in foster care both physically and mentally, so both must be addressed as youth age out and try to transition to independent living.

• Only 30 percent of those receiving independent living services once they have aged out graduate from high school or receive a GED by age 19.

• By age 21, only 44 percent are employed.

• Many youth spoke about how having an unstable environment affected them negatively, raising many issues related to permanency.

One of the most important recommendations made in the environmental scan is to extend foster care to age 21. This policy reform, which research has shown improves outcomes for youth significantly, will serve as the backbone of the DYOI strategic plan which will be developed for implementation and will include the formation of a Community Partnership Board, chaired by Lt. Gov. Matt Denn, the involvement of the State’s Youth Advisory Council, which advocates for policy changes that affect the child welfare system, as well as Opportunity Passport™, a financial literacy program for youth in and out of foster care.

If you would like more information on DYOI or read the full environmental scan, please visit www.dyoi.org or contact Julie Miller at 302-658-7174 ext. 16 or jmiller@dcjustice.org.