Hoyleton | Setting the Stage for a Successful Life Story
Setting the Standard for an Outstanding Adulthood
Imagine a young man or woman approaching adulthood. This transition is a time that should be filled with excitement and opportunity as they look toward their future and independence. However, those who have spent part of their teenage years in foster care also struggle with relationship building, family planning, and finding future stability.
When Youth Villages made the realization back in 1999, they then launched LifeSet. This groundbreaking and innovative program helps change young men and women's lives in exiting foster care.
Expanding on support programs
In 2019, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services explored new ways and innovative approaches to delivering care to older foster care youth. We had a strong program, called Emerging Adults. This program included opportunities for both community and independent living. At the same time, the youth acquired essential life skills, "says Brice Bloom-Ellis, Chief Program Officer." "LifeSet was an opportunity for us to improve our program, continue to assist youth in development and growth, while we support and prepare them for adulthood."
Hoyleton launched LifeSet in southern Illinois as a pilot program through a grant awarded from Youth Villages and DCFS and was a natural extension of the Emerging Adults Care program.
Building a foundation for success
Youth are referred to the program by DCFS. Hoyleton's LifeSet team completes an assessment to verify that the youth is a good fit for the program, making it possible for a youth to have the best outcome. Then they enter the program, getting paired with a case specialist trained in navigating early adulthood complexities.
Youth and case specialists meet weekly at the youth's choice; face-to-face meetings are encouraged when possible. However, throughout COVID, video conferencing is utilized. Through experiential learning, the case specialist helps them set achievable goals around housing, transportation, education, employment, health, and relationships.
A unique approach to accomplish goals
The unique part that distinguishes LifeSet from similar programs is that the youth maps their path and decides for themselves the primary focus areas. The specialist provides guidelines and recommendations that the youth must meet. Still, there is more freedom for the youth to determine what is most important to them. A shorter, one-month, focused objective approach is used by LifeSet to set a plan. Young people say shorter aim times make them feel like their goal is achievable.
For each youth, the focused area is different. Some may be working towards a GED or preparing for college. Some want to find jobs, while others want to learn how to get quality housing, communicate with landlords, or take care of their new home.
Supporting Southern Illinois communities
"Hoyleton is proud to be the only organization to introduce the LifeSet program in southern Illinois," says Brice. "We are continually evolving and looking at new approaches to providing care. And we believe that we are in the best position to bridge this difficult period for young adults between group living treatment and independent living. Hoyleton and LifeSet are preparing young people for adulthood by walking alongside them and ensuring that they have the skills needed to thrive and experience success once they are out of care."
To learn more about LifeSet at Hoyleton and how you can help young adults in our communities, please visit us at https://hoyleton.org
Fryday Nelson - Finding My Stride
Illinois is one of approximately 28 states that has extended foster care to age 21. By continuing care, emergent adults are provided the time and necessary tools to help them become successful adults. I had an opportunity to interview Fryday Nelson, a Hoyleton success story, and learn his thoughts on being successful while in care and beyond.
After your experience in foster care, and not having achieved traditional permanency, what hope or thoughts would you like to share with youth who find themselves in a similar situation?
First, I hope they have some support system, like Hoyleton, and a good caseworker. If they are losing hope, they have to use their voice and ask for help. Do not be afraid to reach out because there are individuals who want to help. I know speaking up makes a person feel vulnerable, but you have to be real when asking for help. I am aware that youth in foster care have been through a lot. They often feel people have let them down all their lives, and that no one cares about them. When this happens, you have to have faith in yourself and the belief that good people are willing to help. Even when a person has been hurt in past relationships, you cannot be shy about giving the next person a chance to build a relationship with you. Also, prayer is so important. A person needs to have faith that they will receive help from someone. Just hold on, help is coming.
You spoke about trusting oneself, why is this so important?
If you cannot trust yourself and the decisions you make, you will never trust anyone else. Trust is what builds relationships. I understand about being let down in a relationship. However, not all relationships will be the same. A person has to learn from each relationship and every situation, both the good and the bad.
What advice would you share with potential foster parents or current foster parents on how to care for older youth versus younger children?
Listen to the youth in your care. Take the time to understand their issues. Please realize you can work with them. Foster parents need to listen to what is spoken and unspoken. You have to gain their trust, and that takes time and patience. Don’t give up on them. The rejection will be a scar they carry with them as they become older. The belief that no one cared about them will be there in their minds. Foster parents can change a youth’s attitude, but you have to be willing to love them.
As you move into adulthood, are there any skills you wish you had acquired while in foster care, which you feel would be beneficial to other youth or emergent adults?
I wish I would have worked on my work ethic. If you start early learning the value of a good work ethic, you will see the results later as you grow within your job and as a person. Always work on trying to be a better person. Have a vision for who you want to be and move toward becoming that person. And good communication skills are important.
What are your dreams/goals for one year, five years, and ten years? What steps are you taking to make your goals a reality?
For my one-year goals, I would like to continue saving with the intent to build a home for young men. I have a vision for this, and I know it will take resources to make it a reality. I am also in the process of obtaining my Commercial Driver License (CDL). I will complete the course later this year and then start working for a trucking company.
My five-year goal is to continue raising my son and to purchase a home. I will continue to move toward making a boys’ home a reality. This means learning about the challenges youth face and solutions to those issues. I want young men to know that if I made it out of the system, they can too.
My 10-year goal is to keep things moving. As my son gets older, I am going to be on him. I know the mistakes I made. I know what to do so that my mistakes are not part of his story. I want him to focus on the future that is ahead of him.
Fryday’s future is bright and Hoyleton looks forward to seeing him become the man he envisions. However, the opportunities provided to Fryday, while in care, would not have been possible without dedicated individuals choosing to walk beside him on his journey into adulthood. For more information on how you can partner with Hoyleton Youth and Family Services in their mission to build stronger families one child at a time, contact us at 618.688.4727.
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