EPIC ‘OHANA EXPANDS INITIATIVE TO EAST HAWAI‘I TO HELP YOUTH SUCCESSFULLY TRANSITION FROM FOSTER CARE
News Release from Epic `Ohana
Hilo, HI—Epic ‘Ohana, Inc. today announced the expansion of The Hawaii Youth Opportunities Initiative (HYOI), formed to improve outcomes for young people who age out of the foster care system, to East Hawai‘i. The expansion to East Hawai‘i is an important step towards making these services available statewide. The HYOI was launched in 2010 and is a co-investment site with the national Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, with local co-investors including the Victoria S. and Bradley L. Geist Foundation, the Hawaii Community Foundation, the Atherton Family Foundation and the McInerny Foundation.
Epic ‘Ohana is the lead agency for the statewide implementation of the HYOI, and works in partnership with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and the State Department of Human Services to implement a set of core strategies designed to improve the lives of Hawai‘i’s foster youth and the systems that serve them. The Initiative brings together the people, systems and resources necessary to help foster youth make successful transitions to adulthood.
Each year in Hawai‘i, approximately 120 youth age out of the foster care system. These youth represent one of the most vulnerable populations for negative outcomes – homelessness, incarceration, low educational achievement, teen pregnancy and poverty. Studies have demonstrated that four years after leaving foster care, 25 percent of youth have been homeless, only 58 percent have graduated from high school, 77 percent have become parents themselves and fewer than 20 percent are self-supporting.
The HYOI seeks to ensure that all young people leaving the foster care system have the necessary physical, emotional, social and systemic support to ensure a successful transition into adulthood. The Initiative’s strategic activities target positive outcomes in the areas of education, employment, financial development, personal and community engagement, housing and transportation, physical and mental health, and family relationships.
One of the key elements of the HYOI is the HI H.O.P.E.S. (Hawai‘i Helping Our People Envision Success) youth leadership boards comprised of young people on O‘ahu and in East Hawai‘i who are or have been in Hawai‘i’s foster care system. HI H.O.P.E.S. ensures that the youth and young adult voice is included in all aspects of planning, implementation and evaluation of the Initiative.
Another important component of the HYOI revolves around work with a Community Partnership Hui (CP Hui) on O‘ahu, and now in East Hawai‘i, comprised of partners from Child Welfare Services, Family Court, the University of Hawai‘i system, state housing, the private business sector and other youth-serving organizations. The CP Hui works with the HYOI in their respective communities to improve systems and policy and to provide opportunities for young people aging out of foster care and into adulthood.
Gary J. Stangler, executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, offered the following comment:
“Young people leaving foster care need lifelong relationships with caring adults, support to finish their educations, help to find jobs, housing, financial literacy training and savings accounts to build assets. We are pleased to be a partner with the many outstanding organizations in Hawai‘i that care and are willing to improve the lives of these young people.”
To find out more about the Hawaii Youth Opportunities Initiative, visit www.epicohana.org or contact Maureen Riley at (808) 961-9812 or Delia Ulima at (808) 748-7052. To find out more about the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, visit www.jimcaseyyouth.org.