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The United States government has its hands in everything. It’s gargantuan, much larger than our founders could have ever dreamed and big enough to make conservatives today cringe. But there are times when government programs shine through as worthy and righteous because they solve real problems that truly do require government involvement. Such is the case of Housing and Urban Development’s new initiative, the Foster Youth to Independence program.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson worked with those who had been directly affected by the foster care program in our nation to develop this initiative. In essence, it provides a way for those who “age out” of foster care to get their feet underneath them before going at it on their own. With 5,000 young Americans a year becoming homeless after aging out—at 18- to 21-years of age, depending on the state—it’s clear the system hasn’t prepared everyone for adult life on their own. That’s where the FYI program comes in to help.
“The most remarkable thing about FYI program being implemented is the timeline,” said Epoch Times Senior Editor Jan Jekielek told NOQ Report. “As a number of the interviewees now, it was implemented only four months after the time it was pitched to Carson by the youth.”
Jekielek is host of American Thought Leaders, the show that produced the video above. They interviewed several people involved with visualizing, pitching, developing, and implementing the initiative through HUD, and as Jekielek noted, they did so at an incredible pace considering it involved the federal government. But Carson, a world-renowned neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate before leading HUD, is a man of action.
“When you’re in the system, housing is not a thought that you would think would go away at any moment until you’re in that last year when the social workers are kind of banging it into your head,” said program participant Adaora Onuora. “So, that, I would say, is number one. Housing, stability, how you’re going to fend for yourself.”
The system before the FYI Initiative allowed many who had spent much or all of their lives in foster care simply fall through the cracks once they were emancipated and no longer a ward of the state. Many Americans rely on family and friends to help them transition from childhood to adulthood, but that’s not the case for many foster children. They are often plunged into the real world without a support system in place to help them transition. That’s why the FYI Initiative is so important. It bridges the gap for those who need such assistance the most.
Is this a new phenomenon? No. It’s one that has been swept under the rug for years. But as Jekielek found out in his interviews, the predictability of the phenomenon is one of the reasons the solution became so easily apparent.
“Well, it’s interesting because the phenomenon that you described, that 5,000 young people will age out into homelessness every year, has been going on for many, many years,” said Ruth Anne White, Executive Director for the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare. “And it was actually a Republican Congressman named Mike Turner from Ohio, one of the offices we worked very closely on this with, who figured out this was an entirely predictable problem.”
The initiative allows those coming out of foster care to have the security they need to establish themselves and prepare for being on their own. Instead of six months, which was how the old system worked, emancipated former foster children have three years of support during which time they can go to school or work. Initially, there was a work or school requirement in the proposal, but HUD officials did not want to make it a partisan issue. Instead, the time-limit requirement gave those in need sufficient resources to push forward without allowing them to take advantage of the system indefinitely.
The most impressive part of this program is how quickly it was brought to life. In DC, things rarely move in terms of weeks or months. It takes years to get many programs up and running, but because the need was great and the people behind it motivated, it took a mere four months to go from inception to roll out.
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One of the reasons it defied most expectations was because the initiative’s creators used preexisting rules and programs to piece it together, limiting requirements for approval and giving it the streamlined contours necessary for such fast implementation.
“It’s also remarkable that the youth organization figured out how to leverage existing rules to make sure every foster child leaving the system can have a home while they get on their feet,” Jekielek said.
A remarkable and motivated group of people went to HUD Secretary Ben Carson with an idea. Together, they turned it into a plan to help those in foster care stay off the streets and move into adulthood properly. Today, the FYI Initiative is a reality.
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