Connected by 25: Local organization aims to help former foster youth
By Sadie Hunter
With a career built around foster care and education, Geist resident Amy Hendrix said her job as director of Health and Financial Capability Strategies at Indiana Connected by 25 is a culmination of her life’s work.
Connected by 25 is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit that provides financial, educational and social support to foster youth who are at the point of aging out of foster care or have already done. It works to get them connected to personal and professional networks for a successful life by the age of 25.
“Caseworkers tell stories of getting all their documents – their Social Security card, birth certificate and those types of things – and driving (foster kids who have aged out of the system) from the foster home to the homeless shelter. There was nothing for them,” Hendrix said. “Upon returning to work in foster care, it was wonderful to see the advancements that have been made for this population, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. People don’t thoughtfully exclude foster kids, but they don’t thoughtfully include them, either.”
Connected by 25, which was born out of a United Way program in 2008, serves clients statewide and has three primary programs, all of which partner with the Indiana Dept. of Child Services.
The Education Training Voucher program helps foster youth who are seeking post-secondary education. Connected by 25 holds a contract with the Indiana Dept. of Child Services to manage federal passthrough dollars, which makes funds available for college and technical training.
“Connected to that is a dorm program, where we can help with federal money, pay for their room and board while they’re on campus,” Hendrix said.
Connected by 25 also manages the state’s contract with the DCS’s Youth Advisory Board.
“And then the third main contract that we have with (DCS) is a soul source contract, and that is to support Opportunity Passport,” Hendrix said.
Opportunity Passport is a trademarked program for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, a program that also supports youth who age-out of foster care. Connected by 25 is an exclusive partner with the initiative and is the only provider of Opportunity Passport, with exclusive rights to the program and its financial curriculum.
“Foster youth don’t always have what we call the ‘bank of mom and dad’ to rely on,” Hendrix said. “So, when you think back to when you were 18, 19, 20 to when you got your first car or first apartment, or when you went to open your first bank account, who was with you?”
Opportunity Passport teaches Connected by 25 clients in two parts – one part in 12 hours of financial literacy instruction, which works in partnership with local banking professionals, and the second part opens a match savings account for the clients.
“What we can do with that is match them, dollar for dollar up to $3,500, to purchase certain approved assets – housing, vehicles, education, micro-enterprise, credit building or repair and more,” Hendrix said.
Opportunity Passport has helped more than 250 clients since its inception in 2009 and has matches more than $100,000.
“Having that support at that critical point in your life can make all the difference,” Hendrix said. “Connecting them to as many people in the community, building that social capital, those are the kinds of things that we’re really so passionate about at Connected by 25. I know I stood on a lot of shoulders to get where I am. I want to be that shoulder for someone else.”
To help support its programming and services, Connected by 25 will host its annual fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. June 7 at The Crane Bay, 551 W. Merrill St., Indianapolis. The event will be an evening of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and also will feature keynote speaker Tamika Catchings, a four-time Olympic Gold Medalist, WNBA champion and MVP. For more, or to purchase tickets, visit bit.ly/2pOw4IA.
To learn more about Connected by 25, visit fostersuccess.org.
QUICK FACTS ON FOSTER YOUTH
- More than one in five will become homeless after age 18.
- Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent of all 19 year olds).
- Seventy-one percent of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance and involvement in the child welfare system.
- By the age of 24, only half are employed.
- Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent of all 25 year olds).
- One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system.
- More than 60 percent of youth will have mental health problems during their lifetime.