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Portland State University program for foster youth ranked one of the best in the nation
Author: John Kirkland
Posted: January 29, 2014

My Life, a project of the Regional Research Institute at Portland State University’s (PSU) School of Social Work that helps youths transition from foster care to adulthood, was selected last week as one of the top programs of its kind in the United States by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) in Washington, D.C.

CSSP is a national, nonprofit organization working to shape public policy to improve the lives of children, families and communities. It conducted a national search for initiatives that are making a critical difference in the lives of youth in foster care or the child welfare system.  The PSU program was one of 15 chosen out of a field of 130.

CSSP said the 15 programs are models of effectiveness, and that it will use them in its efforts to help influence program and public policy changes across the country. 

“These 15 programs represent organizations and agencies that are achieving outcomes that are truly improving the well-being of very vulnerable youth,” said Susan Notkin, CSSP associate director. “They share a deep understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities adolescents face, the impact of trauma they have experienced, and the commitment needed to stick with them no matter what.”

Youth in foster care, about 50 percent of whom receive special education services, often face many problems during young adulthood, including unemployment, difficulty getting into college, homelessness, and mental health issues.

Since it began in 2009, My Life has helped more than 250 Portland-area teens, 16 and older, by providing weekly coaching to help them learn and apply skills to identify and reach their goals.  Skills taught include problem solving, finding resources, building connections with adult allies, and managing discouragement. 

Teens in the My Life program are coached over a one-year period. During that time, they also attend several workshops with other My Life youth and adult mentors who were in foster care.

“My Life is the first program for youth exiting foster care in the nation that is being rigorously tested to determine whether providing youth in foster care with self-determination experiences and skills that will help them to successfully move into adult life,” said PSU professor Laurie Powers, co-leader of the program with principal investigator Sarah Geenen.

About Portland State University (PSU)

Located in Portland, Oregon, PSU has about 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students. PSU’s motto is “Let Knowledge Serve the City,” and we provide every student with opportunities to work with businesses, schools and organizations on real-world projects. Our downtown campus exhibits PSU’s commitment to sustainability with green buildings, while sustainability is incorporated into much of the curriculum. The Regional Research Institute for Human Services is the research arm of the School of Social Work, which focuses on identifying and evaluating new approaches to improving services and policies for disadvantaged groups.