The Bridges to Success Program
When we build strong children, we build a strong community.
For years, experts recognized that older youth in care were not thriving and that young men and women who turned 18 and "aged out" faced dismal outcomes. When we looked at our own cases, we saw older kids experiencing more frequent placement changes, often to more and more restrictive settings, further and further from home. They were not doing well in school and certainly were not developing the soft and hard skills they needed to step over the threshold into young adulthood.
In January 2017, Piedmont CASA launched Bridges to Success. Today, three professional adult mentors provide 1:1 guidance and support to foster kids ages 13 to 18, and continue to work with young adults who stay on our caseload up to age 21.
We set four goals: improve placement stability, improve academic performance, improve soft and hard skills needed for employment and - this is the game-changer - engage the youth in the life-planning process. We want our kids to see that despite everything that has happened to them, they can learn the skills they need to take control of their own life in a positive, productive, and rewarding way.
We built even more bridges during the pandemic.
In FY20, our Bridges Coaches served 44 youth and young adults ages 13 to 21. During the first half of the year, they traveled 26,616 miles to spend in-person time with their kids. On March 18, the Coaches transitioned to remote methods of staying in touch. That worked reasonably well for youth who had the structure afforded by foster care - but our young adults who live out in the community were more vulnerable. Isolation made it difficult for some of them to meet their basic needs. Coaches drove them to grocery stores and food banks, even to emergency medical care. Others simply needed to know someone was there, an adult they knew they could trust, their Bridges Coach.