Stories are powerful when they’re real and concern our current and former foster youth, children, and community. As we look forward to 2020, we see a Nebraska where all children, families, and youth thrive, especially when we share successes such as Sheri’s.
A Connected Youth Initiative (CYI) participant with foster care experience, Sheri’s name has been changed but her identity is very real. Thanks to her determination and the help of CYI’s resources for former foster youth, Sheri is just one example of how a young person who has aged out of foster care can move closer to thriving.
CYI is a statewide initiative with several communities throughout Nebraska. The program began as a response to Project Everlast’s success in Omaha. Each CYI community offers resources for former foster youth including Central Navigation, Coaching, Opportunity Passport, and Youth Leadership, all of which continue to be successful for participants like Sheri.
Sheri is a young, single mother living in rural Nebraska. She was financially struggling to raise her two-year-old daughter while living off a small sum of child support and SNAP benefits.
Although Sheri knew she was capable and wanted to find a job to support herself and her child, she felt self-conscious because she needed extensive dental work. The problem, however, was that on most days, Sheri didn’t have an extra dollar, let alone the money to cover her dental work, which included full upper and partial dentures. As a result, Sheri struggled with feeling self-conscious, finding employment, and enrolling in school due to her appearance.
She went on to work with a CYI coach, who helped her utilize the Your Money, Your Goals financial toolkit, one of the available resources for former foster youth. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit to educate staff members of federal, state, non-profit, and faith-based organizations to empower the people they serve, like Sheri, to make sound financial choices.
More specifically, Your Money, Your Goals assists organizations’ staff members to educate community members on creating budgets, managing debt, and interpreting credit scores. Every year, the Bureau selects certain organizations to undergo this training.
For Sheri and her CYI coach, this resource was particularly useful in assisting her to save for dental work. Over a six-month period, Sheri continued to put aside money while participating in Opportunity Passport. Opportunity Passport was created as a Jim Casey Initiative. Project Everlast helps support this program so that all of Nebraska is covered. Eligible participants’ ages range from 14-26 years old.
The benefits of Opportunity Passport include providing its participants’ the ability to use their 3:1 savings match. For example, if a participant wishes to save for a car, if she saves $2,000, the program provides $6,000 for a vehicle purchase, including insurance and registration.
2:1 matches are also available for living and asset-specific costs such as housing, medical expenses, education, debt reduction, and investments. Finally, a 1:1 match is available, too, for those participants who need to make purchases to support their stability. Finally, Opportunity Passport participants receive referrals and active case management. This may include assistance with opening personal bank accounts and establishing or re-establishing personal credit.
https://blog.nebraskachildren.org/2018/04/03/nebraska-children-hosts-your-money-your-goals-training/Youth like Sheri, who successfully complete this program, will receive a 2:1 savings match of up to $1,000 per year, a personal bank account, and additional financial education opportunities. While utilizing Opportunity Passport, Sheri and her coach continued to leverage the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit.
Over a six-month period, Sheri continued to work alongside her CYI coach, saving one dollar at a time and putting aside spare change. By using these resources, she managed to save $125, which was then matched by Opportunity Passport!
Sheri has emerged from the experience feeling positive, empowered, and more financially savvy. Best of all, she’s saved for her dental work so she can gain confidence to embark on her job search!
As we move farther into 2020, we’re energized to share this young, single mother’s story of success and empowerment, which she expressed, in her own words, writing:
“I want to start by saying how grateful I am for CYI and for the Opportunity Passport and the resources they offer. The opportunities that this money match opened for me is life changing. I will be using the match to get upper dentures and cannot express how much more confiden[t] this will make me, let alone the physical pain that I no longer will have to endure. I am excited to press play on my paused life again and seek out a job, along with looking into college courses. I would like to reiterate again how thankful I am for this program and the renewed hope it has offered me.”
Sheri recently received her dentures and has lots of reasons to smile, as the picture below depicts! She’s excited for her future, and so are we.
When we support those youth who have aged out of foster care like Sheri, to reach their full potential, we come closer to a Nebraska which cultivates the good life for everyone.
Thanks to you and your support, we know that this next year there will be more of these stories to come.