New Voucher Program Takes Care Of Oklahoma Kids That Age Out Of Foster Care
TULSA, Oklahoma - A new voucher program will make sure more kids who age out of the foster care system will have a place to sleep at night.
Voucher programs, sponsored by DHS's Successful Adulthood Program, have been helping foster kids get on their feet after their 18th birthday for years.
Amanda Aunko with the National Resource Center for Youth Services told News On 6 the new housing vouchers will help speed the home-finding process for young adults as they prepare to transition into the real world.
"Having these supports available for these people it just allows them to not just transition but to thrive, in life and transitioning back to their communities," Aunko said.
Courtney Maxwell was 16-years-old when she finally told someone she'd been sexually abused by her stepdad. She was placed with a foster family during court proceedings.
"There was not enough circumstantial evidence, so he stayed in the home with my mom," she said.
Maxwell never went home, and eventually aged out of the system.
Through the OSAP, she was awarded vouchers that helped her find a place to stay and even tuition for college.
"I'm super grateful because it helped me," she said. "I'm able to become something I wanted to be. Without them, I don't know if I'd be where I am right now."
Aunko explained the process, saying the new housing vouchers allow her team to directly refer a young adult to the OK Housing Finance Agency. If they're approved, Aunko's team works with landlords and helps them find a new home to move into.
"A lot of times we think, 18, you're an adult, you're supposed to have all of it figured out," she said. "Most of us know we hit 18 and still largely needed to call people when things came up."
According to the National Youth in Transition Database, 46 percent of young adults who aged out of foster care in Oklahoma are homeless by age 21.
Aunko said having a place to call home affects your ability to hold down a job, get an education, and generally become a contributing member of society.
"Part of the stability that allows us to be able to go to work, to go to school every day, is knowing we have a safe place to be able to lay down every night," she said.
Maxwell said these programs are something every foster kid deserves to know about, and take advantage of.
"These kids can actually get help, they can succeed," she said. "They can actually make something of themselves."
To find out more about resources for foster children in transition, call 1-800-397-2945, or visit the Oklahoma Successful Adulthood Program website.