Lowry receives national grant for innovative foster care programs

OLYMPIA - A number of teen-age foster children in the Puget Sound area will benefit from a $150,000 AmeriCorps grant awarded today to an innovative Washington program that will provide one-on-one adult mentoring and structured group activities for more than a hundred 15-18-year-old youth.

The grant from the Corporation for National Service, which includes AmeriCorps, recognizes Washington's innovative approach to youth and community partnerships through foster care programs. The new program was officially recognized today during events in Smokey Point and Tacoma.

"This recognition is another example of the exciting partnerships we can create when we have a common goal," Gov. Mike Lowry said during the ceremonies. "We know that the presence of an adult role model is critical to helping kids grow into healthy, responsible adults. This program will help more teen-age youth benefit from that relationship."

"Fostering Youth-Community Partnerships" is one of 22 programs across the country that received the Governor's Innovative Program grant from the Corporation Only one other competing program focused on foster children.

The governor traveled to Smokey Point and Tacoma with Harris Wofford, chief executive officer for the Corporation for National Service, for ceremonies highlighting the grant. The funds will be used to establish programs in Snohomish, Pierce and Kitsap counties that will provide mentors to adolescents 15 years and older who are in foster care.

Wofford said the program's innovative approach to foster youth was a key to its award. The program is designed to have youth actively engaged in service to the community, not merely receiving service. Foster care teenagers will serve on community teams that will identify projects that could improve their communities while also acting as resources for others. Wofford said the project will help young people build self-esteem through teamwork with AmeriCorps volunteers and will serve as a consistent influence through the coming summer months.

The Corporation's grant awards process recognizes innovative ways to use AmeriCorps or other community service programs to meet pressing needs. Wofford said the services provided by these partnerships demonstrate that community-based organizations and the public sector can successfully work together to address the problems communities face.

The partnership among AmeriCorps, the state Department of Social and Health Services Division of Children and Family Services, Northwest Youth Services and the Pierce County Alliance will begin the program in June.

The mentoring program will tackle issues surrounding youth and foster care, including the lack of meaningful after-school and weekend activities for foster youth, the absence of positive and consistent adult figures in the lives of foster youth, and the difficult adjustment of life after foster care for older teens.

The program will focus on providing one-to-one adult mentoring and six hours of structured group activities each week for at least a hundred foster children ages 15-18.

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For more information, contact the Governor's Communications Office at 360-753-6790.