Opening Doors for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care
My Path Forward (formerly known as The Possibilities Project) is a groundbreaking, collaborative program developed in 2015 by the Better Housing Coalition (BHC) in partnership with Children’s Home Society of Virginia (CHS). My Path Forward provides young people aging out of Virginia’s foster care system with a powerful combination of housing, crucial support services, and counseling so they will be better able to grow into adulthood and reach their fullest potential. BHC and CHS accepted a Virginia Housing Award for My Path Forward/The Possibilities Project for Best Housing Program at the 2016 Governor’s Housing Conference in November 2016.
In June 2020, the program name changed to “My Path Forward.” As our program enters its fifth year, it is much more than a “Project,” and the young people we serve have achieved so much more than “Possibilities.” As such, the name “The Possibilities Project” no longer fits the robust model that the program has become over the first four years.
The first young My Path Forward participants moved into their fully furnished apartments at BHC’s Winchester Greens Community in March 2016. Read about it in this Richmond Times-Dispatch article by Sarah Kleiner.
Why My Path Forward Matters
Virginia is ranked among the worst of the 50 states for the rate at which teens age out of foster care without being adopted by a permanent family.
Every year, about 500 young people “age out” of Virginia’s foster care system without being adopted. Often, they are sent into the world with nothing—no reliable housing, no job options, no education, no transportation, no life skills, and no supportive relationships. Like most 18-year-olds, they’re not prepared to be fully on their own. Yet their challenges are compounded by histories of abuse, abandonment, and instability. Watch Amy Lacy’s ABC8 News video “Forgotten Fosters” here:
The statistics are devastating. Within two years of aging out of Virginia’s foster care system:
- 1 in 4 will be incarcerated
- 1 in 5 will be homeless
- Fewer than 1 in 6 graduate from high school
- 71% of the girls are likely to become pregnant
It costs too much to do nothing.
My Path Forward empowers youth ages 18 to 25 who have aged out of Virginia’s foster care.
In addition to safe, stable housing, we provide trauma-informed therapeutic counseling, along with networks to build permanent connections with adults to offer a lifetime of support and guidance.
We invest in each young person’s success by securing access to basic needs like transportation, internet, a living expense stipend, and life skills training—like nutritious meal planning, how to create a budget, interviewing skills, and more. All young people in the program have a roommate for mutual support, accountability, and relationship building.
Each young person is unique, with unique needs and dreams. To ensure a smooth transition, each youth is:
- Mentored as they pursue their own educational and career goals
- Offered opportunities to grow through personal discovery experiences like cultural events, sports, and recreational activities, and hobbies
- Encouraged to engage with their community and build civic responsibility through advocacy, service, and leadership opportunities
My Path Forward will create a best-practice model designed for Virginia, and beyond.
Our research with Child Trends, a nationally recognized research firm, has surveyed programs and policies across the country addressing the plight of youth who age out of foster care. Using a combination of national research with practical application applied locally, My Path Forward will serve as a replicable program model to serve former foster care youth in our region, throughout the Commonwealth and across the nation.
Our ultimate goal is to empower these vulnerable young people to achieve independence and personal success, thus transforming their lives and the communities to which they belong.
Watch the PBS Documentary
In January 2020, PBS aired “Aged Out: Finding Home” featuring the program and some of its participants. You can watch the hour-long documentary in full on the VPM (Virginia Public Media) Facebook page.
Permanency & Independent Living Director, My Path Forward
Children’s Home Society of Virginia receives donations for My Path Forward. If you’d like to support this program, click here.