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DCFS Director Introduces New Youth Programs
During State Fair Visit

Springfield Initiatives Reflect Growing Trend of Serving Older Youth in Foster Care

Springfield, IL (August 18, 2006) - Leaders of the state's child welfare agency and two community-based agencies met during Foster and Adoptive Family Day at the Illinois State Fair to announce new initiatives targeting youth in the Springfield area..

"Thousands of foster and adoptive family members have been given free admission to the nation's best state fair as a way of saying thanks for opening their homes to children in the state's care," said Director Bryan Samuels of the Department of Children and Family Services. "Just as important, it is also a time to focus attention on the needs of youth as they grow toward adulthood."

Joined by Springfield YWCA Executive Director Mary Hardy-Hall
and Springfield Urban League President/CEO Nina Harris, Samuels announced the creation of two DCFS-funded programs to strengthen at-risk youth and equip them with vital social and employment skills.

"The YWCA's Girls Awakening Power program and the Urban League's Work-Attitude-School-Study Youth Program," said Samuels, "will offer unique blends of activities and experiences that many young people need, but are just not getting access to,"

Springfield YWCA Executive Director Hardy-Hall called Girls Awakening Power (GAP) an important tool in helping girls, ages 12 to 16, learn to find their unique voices. Based on research indicating that many teen girls have lower self esteem and fewer opportunities to build confidence than boys, GAP will offer up to 25 girls a safe and challenging academic and social environment. GAP highlights include a computer lab, homework tutoring, visits to woman-owned businesses, group discussions and business etiquette classes.

President Nina Harris explained that the Springfield Urban League's Work-Attitude-School-Study Youth Program (WASSuP) will provide skill-building services for older youth in DCFS care. Up to 15 youth, ages 16 to 20, will be supported by the program. Services will include GED instruction, tutoring, mentoring, job shadowing, on-the-job work experience and college campus visits.

The $45,000 GAP program and the $91,700 WASSuP program are part of a "Lifetime Approach" DCFS has introduced to enhance services for children and youth in state care, and to support the transition of older youth to a successful and productive adulthood. DCFS offers a variety of unique programs for youth in the transition to adulthood, including Find Your Future, Youth in College, Youth in Scholarship and the its Employment Incentive Program.

According to Director Samuels, the Department's substitute care population recently dropped to below 17,000 children - the lowest level since fiscal year 1988.

"Aggressive efforts to reunite children with their biological families and move eligible children into adoptive families have paid off in more children living in safe, permanent homes," noted Samuels. "The new programs introduced today," he added, "signal a new direction being taken in child welfare services. Today we are doing a better job of understanding the unique needs of the children who remain in care, and then customizing our services to meet their real world needs."
DCFS is the nation's largest accredited state child welfare agency, as well as a leader in the development of cutting-edge, child protection, foster care and adoption services. For more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call toll-free 800-572-2390.

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Kendall Marlowe, DCFS
Delores Robinson, DCFS 312-814-6847

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