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Works Wonders, Innovations in American Government Award 2018



one works wonders the state of Rhode Island good morning so honored to be here with you this morning I'm Lisa galette with foster forward and I'm gonna kick things off so nationally 5.5 million young people lack connections to either school or work with our nation's 400,000 foster youth most in danger of falling behind young adults who aren't in school and aren't working or costing taxpayers ninety three billion dollars annually and 1.6 trillion over their lifetimes in lost revenue and increased social services and most government-funded workforce development initiatives are calibrated for an adult workforce the programs that are geared towards youth assume a level of parental engagement and support that is often lacking for those in our foster youth population for Isaac a young man aging out of foster care without supportive adult connections it meant not having a sense of purpose or direction no plan for his future and daily struggles with housing and other basic needs works wonders is a unique and innovative public-private response to this need since inception works wonders has been a multi-level government innovation with partners including the federal Children's Bureau Rhode Island's Department of Children Youth and Families and Department of Labor and training foster forward our state's youth board called the voice and Columbia University in Rhode Island College it started with a 2 million dollar federal grant in 2010 for a research study and kicked off five years of building and testing an effective model for workforce development that was specifically for and co-created with foster youth my name is Heather Hudson I'm the executive director of the governor's workforce board in Rhode Island and we invest in started this program several years ago Rhode Island was one of the hardest hit States with the recession we had an unemployment rate of high around 12% were now around 3 but that was because of our strong political leadership from Governor Gina Raimondo who said from day one we need people to get jobs and she didn't mean just the average Rhode Islander she meant everybody that includes our foster Ford poppy foster youth population so we started real jobs Rhode Island an industry sector based partnership bringing in manufacturing the Marine trades construction the defense industry the tech industry and we started that but then we realized our foster youth our homeless youth all these other folks were getting left behind we created real pathways and we started supporting foster forward to specifically target our foster youth population which now I'm so excited that he's getting connected like Isaac with the manufacturing industry and the construction industry so that it's not just what we used to have was a train and prey and we're gonna train you and then we're gonna hope that you get a job good luck didn't work so well so I'm gonna hand it back to Lisa so our public-private partnership with the governor's Workforce board together with the really unique approach and design of works wonders enables us to effectively effectively bridge the gap and successfully engage and connect the underserved population of foster youth we credit the fact that foster youth were involved in every aspect of our program design and delivery and they helped us on the front end identify those key barriers that might otherwise be impediments to their successful participation we knew that the biggest predictor of future employment is past experience and our five-step model was designed to help foster youth build the relational competencies and agency that they need to start climbing their career ladder and it worked the research study showed that works wonders participants experienced a 37 percent increase in employment and we had an 83 percent completion rate so because of the successes we doubled our investment with foster forward we are now funding them at four hundred thousand dollars we started at $100,000 and we've seen an 80 percent success rate with this partnership specifically now we're excited about connecting these youth with apprenticeship models we just want a six million dollar federal grant that we want to connect our foster youth with in Rhode Island we have the ability to scale we got computer science into every single school in the past year so we're excited about helping every single foster youth not just get a support service not just get a training program but actually increase their wages get them onto a career path get them an education so it's not just a one and done and the second thing that I'll add is that we include the foster youth folks and the governor's workforce board statewide Career Pathways effort to include them at the table when we're working with the Department of Education to say what are you doing Department of Education to make sure these kids aren't dropping out of high school what are you doing post-secondary education to make sure they're getting in those college degrees I have to say very seldom have I heard about successful foster care it's very very difficult I found over the years to run so I congratulate you for focusing on that sector and doing a good job how did you get to that 83% you know we really engage young people directly in the conversations that affect their lives and it starts by following through with promises delivered you know if we say both I mean we're you know we go out we have a contract with the state so we're going out to see every young person in foster care when they turn 16 and we're doing a holistic youth assessment and then we're engaging them and we're giving them opportunities throughout our programs to build assets save match I mean we're helping them solve problems and we built in flexible funds into the model so that we could be responsive to their needs we show them that respect and interns are used to engage 16 years old so they're still in foster care and you say now you've got to think about what's gonna happen when you turn 18 do you have a job do you have a plan that's and do other places start when they're 16 or is that unique I think that other states do workforce development I think the challenge has been its historically funded through a Department of Labor and training and the onus is on the young people to get to the front door of a different system we've bridged the gap to say we're gonna bring Workforce Development typically to this population the other thing is that nationally recognized programs like Europe who have had great success they have minimum standards you know we start with no literacy no numeracy requirements for these young people were truly meeting them where they're at and we're closing raise equity gaps because we're serving the most disconnected young people who often are disproportionately represented in foster care and underrepresented in the results that we want to see question I want to take you back what drove you to do this in the first place I mean again this is just often a population that either a most people don't pay that much attention to be to the extent that they do it you have a system we have a program it just runs it is what it is I think yeah I think it's the beauty of public-private partnership Foster Ford's an agency whose mission is to empower lives impacted by foster care our historical challenge was providing workforce development and onboarding 16 year olds to work and the existing system didn't work so we forged a different path together with Heather and the governor's workforce board and the innovations from the state now employers get workforce incentives to hire and retain young people so there's there's benefit on that and and we've been able to benefit through the investment of job development funds which are flexible payroll tax dollars that are a lot more flexible than the traditional funding streams of WI o ei in being able to meet young people where they're at so it's truly this dynamic partnership that's enabled us to do this have you been able to track high school graduation house decree acceptance certificate programs etc etc again always concerned about great start what happens you know on the back end absolutely do you want to share a couple of those statistics just in terms of the post study well so in Rhode Island at age nineteen seventy percent of youth and foster care report being without a job now we have cut it in half so we went down from thirty three percent we cut that down in half so we're know that we know that it's working with the groups that we've been working with the other thing that the governor's Workforce board is doing is investing in a p20 workforce dashboard that we will then be able to track our investments in students that have been impacted through foster forward and the works wonders program and track exactly set high school rate college and college enrollment their wages over time so we have the ability to connect and bring all those partners together not only on the day to day and on the programs and the investments but on the data side we're leading the way to connect and hold ourselves accountable as well on that and also just to your question about education we are finding that a good number of the young people were serving are coming to us without a diploma or a GED and we've brought the GED classes on site to provide that what are the sorts of roadblocks that prohibited something like this I think one of the historic barriers I referenced the WI o $1 we were dealing with a population that was so disconnected that it was very hard for us to plug into those dollars and serve them in the short period of time that we would have to achieve a meal a major milestone like high school graduation so the plug in of the job development funds you know it's costing us two thousand dollars annually to serve a young person in this program and yet the savings based on the numbers I referenced in the beginning or over seventeen thousand dollars a year for each disconnected youth and we believe that this model has incredible promise for the larger population of disconnected youth in this country because the the population we're serving is really most deeply impacted by trauma when you think about social determinants of health and ASA scores if we can be successful with this group we're very confident that we could be successful with all young people which from our perspective the state and workforce first the innovation was industry sector partnerships as we heard earlier employers here have a foster youth will pay you know I'm good thanks not because they're mean but because like these kids need a lot of help so we started with employers and industry and then the realization was okay well now we need support services for these kids who knows them where are these kids going well they're not going to the federally funded whee-oo program like they're going to Lisa because she's nice and they trust her and her staff like they go into their house it really is a house a non-profit and like they go talk to them and they help them and they listen to them and they talk to them that's the basic starting point and then we have our industry sector partnerships and the manufacturers and the marine trades and I go talk to them and I say hey Wendy Mackey I know that your boat builders don't require a lot of education would you guys mind talking with Lisa and see if there could be a good fit with foster youth and we just did this with a nursery landscape Association they were like oh my gosh this is great so those connections have to start at the top they have to start at the top and they work their way down and you empower the community through it and I think with our flexible dollars not only are we giving Lisa hurting the ability to pay for oh I don't know like a speeding ticket or like rent because those things happen and trust me I'm fighting all the time with our business affairs people on that but we call it a stipend because look it's not illegal to pay for those wraparound support services there's nothing wrong about that it's a one-time thing it's very similar to the bail thing that I heard earlier that's so innovative we're trying to do that with our dollars at a statewide level that's a great question so we did an rfp both for the real jobs Rhode Island partnership and for the real pathways partnership we did a rfp solicitation and its partnership based so if you're in a real Pathways partnership you still have to have employer and/or industry at the table can't just be you nonprofit over there trying to do good job it's where will these people get jobs what are you training them for on the real jobs partners it's more led by employers and industry sector oftentimes with a community college or Career and Technical Education Program at the table or a non-profit at the table but we did compete they won they'll have to compete again in a few years so they have to keep up their 85% rate or get higher the state of Rhode Island's actually worked I believe I heard Kennedy School on this so um I don't think we've gotten it off the ground we've talked about it and talked about it it's not out the window but so far this is working so we're excited about the model that we've set up on the industry sector side and the pathway side to work together I think you did a great presentation and I have to say hearing about doing a good job of foster care kids it's so encouraging I want to congratulate you thank you very much [Applause]

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