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THP-Plus Foster Care: Worth the Wait

February 6, 2012

By Amy Lemley

It looks like the wait will soon be over: THP-Plus Foster Care is slowly but surely inching its way towards becoming a reality. According to the California Department of Social Services, the All County Letter telling counties about how to implement THP-Plus Foster Care will be issued this month (February!). With those instructions in hand, counties will now be able to move forward and provide this important placement option for youth.

As those familiar with the program know, THP-Plus FC is a new placement option available for young adults who participate in extended foster care, where they can live independently and receive intensive supportive services to help ensure that their first experience living independently is a successful one. THP-Plus FC is modeled after the State’s THP-Plus program, which has helped over 9,000 former foster youth achieve better academic outcomes, locate and retain employment, increase their earnings and avoid criminal justice involvement. Even during the current economic downturn, THP-Plus participants’ superior outcomes have persisted, with their monthly incomes increasing by an average of 13 percent, according to the program’s most recent evaluation. This success is due to the hard work of the program’s participants and the quality of the services they have received.

As the former director of a THP-Plus program, I saw firsthand how the combination of autonomy and support provided by THP-Plus transformed the lives of young adults. I recently met up with Michelle, one of the first young people who participated in the program that I co-founded with Deanne Pearn, First Place for Youth. Michelle’s foster care experience was similar to many who “age out” of the system: she was removed due to neglect as a result of her mother’s substance abuse problem and lived in several placements before coming to live in a group home in San Francisco.

Michelle is now almost 30 years old. She is employed, has a rich network of friends and is a successful parent to two children. Her life is a far cry from the instability, poverty and neglect she experienced as a child. I asked her to help me understand how THP-Plus contributed to her success and her reply was simple: the program trusted her to make her own decisions and supported her, both when the decisions were right ones and when the decisions were the wrong ones.

Thanks to THP-Plus, there was a safety net to catch Michelle when the decisions weren’t so good. Just like anyone else, but unlike so many former foster youth, a few bad decisions didn’t have to ruin her life. Instead, Michelle had the opportunity to learn from them and incorporate those lessons into her future decision-making.

Soon, young adults in foster care across the state will have this same opportunity. Yes, it’s been a long time coming. But some things are worth the wait.

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