Programs offered to former foster youth after serving in correctional facility
By Joe Orlando, CDCR Public Information Officer
The thought of being released can be one of hope for many juvenile offenders. But for those without a family or a home, the prospect of release can be frightening. To help ease fears, juvenile offenders recently had a chance to learn about opportunities available to them.
This was the purpose of the Former Foster Youth Independent Living Program (ILP)/College Workshop at N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility. The youth offenders who attended come from foster care, and are all within seven to 10 months of their discharge consideration hearing. They had a lot of questions for those running the workshop.
Sherrie Flores, with the San Joaquin County Human Services Agency, attended the workshop and explained the (ILP) to the youth.
Jennifer Ajinga, Foster Care Education Program Coordinator for Delta College, was in foster care as a youth because her parents were incarcerated.
“I know my mother loves me, but she’s a meth head who can’t stay straight for any amount of time,” Ajinga said. “I can’t depend on her. I had to do it. Remember, if someone says they can’t help you then ask them who can.”
This group of young men may have come from foster homes, but they’re over 18 now, so what are their options? Plenty, according to Flores.
“ILP prepares older foster care youth for life beyond foster care,” she said. “There is always someone you can call. I represent San Joaquin County, but every county in California has one of me, someone you can ask questions, and get answers.”
She talked about services provided through ILP. They can receive training in areas such as budgeting, banking, cost-effective shopping and meal preparation, map reading, time management, household set-up and personal hygiene.
“I have the power (and) the money to get you clothes, furniture, and if you’re doing well as an emancipated youth, I could get you a computer as well,” Flores said.
She explained Assembly Bill 12, Extended Foster Care.
“You’re eligible for $832 per month if you’re living on your own and have a job,” Flores said.
She said eligibility for extended Foster Care ends on the youth’s 21st birthday, and is only for those who are 18, 19 or 20.
Ajinga had the youth fill out a financial aid form and explained the Cal Grant which offers financial aid and grants for any qualifying California college, university or technical school in California. She also explained the Federal Pell Grant Program which provides need-based grants to low-income undergraduate students to promote access to postsecondary education.
“I came from foster care,” Ajinga said. “I had to find a college that would take me. There were times when I slept in the Greyhound bus station. Life never gets easier, but what you’re working for gets better. Listen to what we’re telling you and take advantage of what’s available to you.”
“I’m filling out my financial aid form, but what do you put down for address? I got no address outside here,” asked Youth Offender Askari.
Ajinga said the lack of an address could be beneficial.
“Leave it blank. This will help you be eligible for the Pell Grant,” she said.
At the end of the workshop, Flores and Ajinga asked the young men for feedback.
“I liked hearing about what money was and wasn’t available to us. I just didn’t like that I was too old for it,” said Josiah.
Another learned about the importance of an education.
“I learned that I need to go to college, and I learned what’s available to me, and when I learned all this money is out there, it motivates me,” said Zachary.
Learn more about the Division of Juvenile Justice, https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Juvenile_Justice/index.html