Child Welfare

Status of Current Youth Transition Efforts

graphic of a person at a crossroads

Training and Youth Transition Program Service Provision Education and Awareness:

Training on topics such as life skills assessments, independent living case planning, adolescent grief and loss issues, teaching positive decision making, and other independent living case management skills continues to be offered to all Departmental caseworkers and other staff of the Department's Bureau of Child and Family Services. Additional training will be formally incorporated into the training curriculum being offered by the state's Child Welfare Training Institute as required by the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program for the training catalogue for the year beginning 10/1/2001. The four specific training areas have been selected based on survey input from foster parents, group care providers, and other individuals who work with older youth in care. Maine's Title IV-B Training Plan is being amended to incorporate this training into the training curriculum and will be available to the foster care and group care provider community beginning in the fall of 2001.

The University of Maine's Muskie School for Public Service was recently awarded a grant for a period of three years to develop a competency based curriculum for Children's Services caseworkers that work with adolescents. Maine and Connecticut are identified as pilot sites for this project. Caseworkers who work with adolescents will be receiving extensive competency based training that will improve their skills with regard to assisting their youth to achieve positive transition outcomes. This project will contain a "youth development" approach by involving older youth in care in both the design and delivery of the training. Two of the Youth Transition Program's Life Skills caseworkers and one Life Skills supervisor are involved in the process of designing the competency curriculum. We are excited about the positive results that we expect to see as a result of this project and how it will improve transition outcomes for older youth in care.

A statewide Youth Transition Conference was conducted on April 27, 2000 to inform all "stakeholders" with regard to the new Chafee Foster Care Independence Program requirements and to update Departmental staff and statewide service providers with regard to Youth Transition Program efforts in Maine. Questions and comments were received from the attendees with regard to the new Chafee law and the program priorities of the Youth Transition Program in Maine. Included in the group attending, were representatives from the Native American tribes in Maine who were informed of the new Chafee requirements regarding services for youth in care who are Native American. The Child Welfare Advisory Committee has Native American representation as well. The CWAC is utilized as another means to keep the Native American community in Maine informed about Youth Transition program services available for youth in care who are Native American.

There are 22 Native American youth currently in custody or continued voluntary care, between ages 15 up to the age of 21 who were committed to Departmental custody by the civil courts in Maine as opposed to the tribal courts. These youth are receiving the benefits of Youth Transition Program services. We are consulting with the tribes in Maine to address the Youth Transition preparation needs of Native American youth who are under the tribal court's custody. Our Department's management staff will work with the Youth Transition Program Manager and continue to meet with the tribal representatives to develop culturally competent Youth Transition program services for youth under the tribal court's custody. Discussions will include the need for Youth Transition preparation training for Native American youth that will address the unique needs of this group of youth. Part of the process of meeting with tribal representatives will include gathering information from them regarding how they are currently working with their older youth with regard to Youth Transition preparation skills how the tribes will provide these services themselves under Chafee. We are also discussing the possibility of using a portion of our Chafee funds under a written agreement with the tribes to provide their own culturally appropriate Youth Transition preparation services for their older youth.

Youth Transition and life skills services for adolescents in Departmental care/custody continues to move along the continuum of the informal, formal, and experiential methods needed for them to learn the necessary basic life skills they will need for living successfully in the community. These services are more accessible and available than they have been previously. During the past year, more agencies serving adolescents have both formally and informally incorporated independent living and life skills instruction into their daily programming. As was mentioned earlier, life skills assessment and instructional practice is more uniform for all contracted group and residential care providers, and for treatment foster care providers.

More specific guidance on conducting good life skills assessments and creating a quality Youth Transition case plan was recently provided to the Department's District management and supervisory staff. In November 2000, casework supervisors requested specific guidance for their staff with regard to conducting life skills assessment and creating improved Youth Transition case plans for older youth in care. This issue arose as a result of recognizing that not all older youth in care were living in a contracted group or residential care program, treatment foster home, or Youth Transition apartment program, or may not be receiving direct services from a life skills caseworker. A life skills assessment and Youth Transition case plan format was developed and shared with all Department District Managers and supervisory staff between December 2000 and March 2001. This has just been put into place for use by Departmental casework staff when completing their life skills assessment and Youth Transition case plan with the youth. The life skills assessment tool covers the same "core life skills" areas that the Competency Based Assessment System covers. Prior to this, the caseworker's life skills assessments and Youth Transition case plans varied in content to some degree. We now expect that every older youth in care will be receiving the same type of life skills assessment and be addressing the same Youth Transition case plan needs no matter where they live. The process of bringing the foster care system into greater uniformity with regard to life skills assessments and Youth Transition case planning practice has taken some time to complete. We believe that we have now reached this goal.