Looking Glass is the Lane County operator of the Independent Living Program (ILP), a statewide initiative funded by the Department of Human Services that serves youth who have been placed in foster care either after the age of 14, or by one of the nine Federally Recognized Tribes in Oregon.
As the name suggests, the purpose of the program is to help foster youth make a successful transition from substitute care to independent living. After meeting with a case manager and receiving a comprehensive assessment of their needs, ILP youth participate in individual and group work, job skills training, recreational activities, education planning, life skills instruction, interpersonal skill building, financial literacy training, and more.
Youth also receive housing assistance and are eligible to participate in a match-savings program, teaching them the importance of saving and allowing them to more easily afford items that are key to achieving their independence, such as computers, smart phones, and even cars.
Brianna Vincent, our ILP Services Manager since 2017, had the following insights to share about the program:
What aspect of your work do you find most challenging?
I think the most challenging thing is to get the youth to see that what they want to do or who they want to be, is possible. The ILP youth have been through so much in their lives already. Sometimes past trauma or fear of failure comes up and we need to help them see that their goals are achievable.
Have you encountered common false assumptions by the community when it comes to working with foster youth?
There is a lot of information out there that says youth in foster care are more likely to be homeless, drop out of school, or end up in jail. But what people don't see is that these youth are resilient. They are motivated, they are strong, and they are working hard to support and make things happen for themselves. While these things may happen to youth in foster care or at-risk youth overall, it is not what defines them or something that we should assume will happen.
In your opinion, what’s the coolest thing about the program?
The coolest thing about the Independent Living Program is all of the supports that are available to the youth. It's not just skill building, help getting jobs, or with graduating. We're able to provide items to help youth get set up in their first apartment, clothes and other necessities for their children if they are teen parents. We have a match savings program that allows youth to save for things such as a car or housing. Additionally, ILP youth have access to other Looking Glass and Riverfront services. All of these supports can ensure that ILP youth are getting the most help and the best possible services to allow them to become successful independent adults. And we have fun with the ILP youth! We’re able to do one-on-one and group outings and activities to learn about the community. Case managers attend the youth’s graduations and sporting events which helps build relationships with the clients and provide a support system for them.
It might sound cliché, but I really enjoy working with youth in foster care because I am a part of a team that simply wants to support youth in need. I had a lot of supportive people in my life growing up, but I came to realize that that wasn't the case for everyone. So getting their first job, improving their grade in math, opening a bank account, or setting up a doctor's appointment on their own, all of these things may seem small to some people, but it may be the most important thing to the youth right now. And because of that, it's the most important thing to me. Being part of all of those successes, and seeing how happy and proud the youth are of themselves, is very rewarding.
Looking Glass thanks Brianna and all the Independent Living Program staff for their meaningful work helping foster youth in our community.
You can learn more about the statewide initiative here.