Liz Squibb knows how to help foster children - she was one herself
Working at the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative she helps foster children make the transition to adulthood.
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But for many former foster children, it’s a necessity that’s often out of their reach, says Liz Squibb, the senior associate director for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.
“Our young people are saying to us, 'I needed the car to get to school, I needed the car to get to work,” Ms. Squibb says.
Saving for a big purchase, such as a car, isn't easy for teens and young adults. But as part of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, based in St. Louis, former foster children can sign up for the Opportunity Passport program, which allows them to open a matched savings account. For every dollar the youth deposits, the initiative matches it.
“We'll increase the amount of opportunity a young person has to save – to participate in mainstream banking,” Squibb says of the program.
Though a car was the most popular purchase in the Opportunity Passport program, participants also often use the funds to pay for rent or education costs, according to data published by the initiative in 2009.
While Opportunity Passport is one of its main programs, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative addresses many other challenges facing former foster children. Founded in 2001 and named after the founder of United Parcel Service, the initiative has a long-term goal for every former foster child: that as they leave foster care they successfully move into adulthood.
The initiative works with organizations and agencies in 15 states that serve children in foster care. It focuses its work on young adults between the ages of 14 and 25 who are leaving their foster homes and facing life on their own.
Squibb joined the initiative in 2001. She was inspired to do this kind of work after living as a foster child in a home where her foster parents took in many other children.
“It was me growing up with other kids who didn't look like me, who had sometimes worse problems than me,” she says. “It was second nature to me to help those who couldn't help themselves.”
One of the biggest goals of the initiative is to ensure that foster children attend school, Squibb says. “They're challenged because they're moving around a lot.”
For many former foster children, the biggest problem is getting a job, she says. “Finding employment is hard enough at this time for young people, let alone children from foster care.”