Spotlight on Lutheran Services in America members and communities of practice coming together to share learnings and innovations, facilitate business opportunities, promote policies and leverage the power of the network.
With more than 100 LSA members serving children, youth and families in 33 states across the country, the LSA network has a dominant national child welfare presence. LSA members provide a broad range of services from foster care and adoption to counseling, housing, health care, mental health care, early childhood education, charter schools, alternatives to detention, Unaccompanied Refugee Minor (URM) foster care programs, and programs for youth aging out of foster care. In the past year the LSA Children, Youth and Family (CYF) Working Group was formed to focus on youth aging out of the foster care system and how we can work collectively as a network to address the challenges and opportunities inherent with this issue.
Older youth are at a higher risk of aging out of foster care without achieving permanent family connections. When they age out of foster care, they face tremendous obstacles as they try to find housing and a job and frequently wind up homeless or in the judicial system. Limited funding for support services for older youth means there is a scarcity of programs and a lack of support structures. Many LSA members report being the only provider (or one of a very few providers) providing services for youth who have aged out of foster care in their state or region.
The CYF working group is now in the process of forming a learning cohort to evaluate evidence-based practices and program models. The learning cohort is an opportunity to evaluate programs that are working and potentially replicate them, collectively building a body of evidence to achieve better outcomes for youth. Thanks in large part to the generosity of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, six members will receive direct technical assistance, coaching, consultation and support from a peer leader, Dr. Laura Heinz, CEO of Stanford Youth Services. Over 20 LSA members have expressed interest in participating in this learning cohort. As a result, the six organizations receiving direct technical assistance will meet with the larger learning cohort four times over the next year to share learnings and evaluations of effective youth service models. A generous grant from the Lutheran Services for Children Endowment (LSCE) of the ELCA Foundation will provide support activities for the larger learning cohort over the next year, including additional speakers, onsite tours, travel and webinars.
The cohort is in its final stages of formation, and the process to identify the six members who will receive direct technical assistance from the peer leader will be completed by the end of February. Members interested in participating in the learning cohort should contact Alesia Frerichs, V.P of Member Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cohort will have its first gathering at the Annual Conference in San Antonio on Thursday, April 23 from 12:30-4:00.