Photo caption: Monique Barton (right), Senior Vice President at Bank of America, and Jessica Hewitt (left), Vice President at Bank of America, present Dress For Success Oregon with a $15,000 grant for a new program helping young women find employment after leaving the foster care system.
We are in the planning stages of an exciting new program called HYPE (Help Young People Excel) and Bank of America has offered to help with a generous grant to get us started. Because we have been so successful in working with women who face enormous challenges, we want to extend our services to girls who are transitioning out of foster care. The statistics tell us that these girls are unsuccessful in getting and maintaining a job, that they often become homeless after leaving public services, and that few advance their education.
Only 39% of foster teens exiting the Independent Living Program (a federal program that extends to age 21) obtained a GED or high school diploma and only 36% achieved some level of life skills competency. Only 1 in 8 foster children graduate from a four-year college. Based on these poor education outcomes, it is not surprising that employment creates even greater difficulties for foster teens. Only 38% of teens are employed 12 to 18 months after exiting the foster care system. Less than half had held a full-time job and of those who had been employed, their median salaries were less than a full-time worker making minimum wage.
Additionally, according to the Youth Rights Justice Center, as a result of the education, employment, housing and health related problems faced by foster youth, some become involved with the criminal justice system. 10% of females are incarcerated within 12-18 months after exiting foster care.
Dress for Success programs can help change those dire predictions. We will adapt our four key programs— Fast Track (intensive job preparation), Professional Suiting, HOPE (Help One Person Excel)providing soft skills training and support, and PWG(Professional Women’s Group)which offers a professional network of job support, mentoring, scholarships and training– into a program targeted to young women transitioning from foster care called HYPE (Help Young People Excel). We will encourage them to advance their educations, offer small scholarships and help them find financial assistance to attend college. We believe that our combined programs have the ability to change the dire statistics that describe the lives of these young women and help them launch a successful life.
Now with the help of Bank of America and their generous $15,000 grant, we can get to work on this amazing program. Thank you, Bank of America, for believing in the work we do and for making a difference in the lives of these young ladies and our community as a whole.