In 2019, iFoster launched the inaugural year of the TAY (transition age youth) AmeriCorps Program.
This groundbreaking program, which was awarded the Best New AmeriCorps Program nationally in 2019, utilizes a novel peer-to-peer model in which the TAY AmeriCorps Members — who are current and former foster youth themselves — connect their peers with the resources they need to be successful once they have aged out of the foster care system.
In Year 1 of the program, 73 TAY AmeriCorps Members served over 4,000 of their peers across 36 different host sites. Not only did these TAY AmeriCorps Members greatly improve the lives of their peers by connecting them to critical resources, but the Members themselves benefited from the experience with 88% of Members reporting having learned skills that will help them advance in their chosen career paths as well as personally benefiting from the critical resources they are trained to connect their peers to.
In Year 2, the program has adjusted to COVID-19 with Members serving their peers with a focus on the most critical needs that have arisen out of the pandemic – while at the same time experiencing many of the same needs themselves.
The host sites from Year 1 have been closed due to the pandemic, so Members have adjusted by working remotely. The total number of Members has been reduced to ensure that iFoster could provide the needed level of support and oversight without the host sites. But despite the reduced number of Members and more challenging circumstances, our Year 2 Members are achieving incredible results.
The primary need our Members have been focused on is connecting the disconnected. In 2016, iFoster participated in an evaluation that showed that only 5% of rural, and 21% of urban foster youth in California had access to a computer and the Internet where they lived. With the stay at home orders resulting from COVID-19, these youth are entirely cut off from school, visitations, and their support networks.
“This will definitely help me streaming my online classes. The signal is always really bad and connection is always cut off. Thanks again and god bless you.” – Foster Youth
Enter the TAY AmeriCorps Members. In the past eight weeks, Members have helped connect more than 6,100 youth to Internet access via the iFoster Phones for Foster Youth Program, and more than 2,500 youth to laptops via the iFoster Laptop Program. We will continue to provide laptops to college students, and have raised sufficient funds to start addressing the need of graduating seniors and those in high school
Members are also providing peer-to-peer emotional support during these incredibly difficult times. iFoster sends out a COVID-19 needs survey to every youth who has received a cell phone. Members call every respondent to discuss their needs related to housing, food insecurity, academic support, general needs and mental health, and to let every youth know there is someone they can talk to when they need.
We will continue to provide laptops to college students but have sufficient funds to start addressing the need of graduating seniors and those in high school.
What started in 2019 as a first of its kind peer-to-peer model to connect foster youth to the resources they need, has taken on even greater importance during COVID-19. We could not be more proud of our TAY AmeriCorps Members and the selfless service they are providing to our foster care community.
Click here if you are interested in learning more about the iFoster TAY AmeriCorps Program.