"Almost On Our Own" Program
The “Almost on Our Own” program (AO), is a specialized program designed for the older court ordered youth that will prepare them to enter independence. The candidate should be close to graduation from high school or have their GED. If the candidate is coming from another facility, they must be doing well in their current placement. Before acceptance into the AO program, an interview is required with the candidate and their DFS caseworker to clarify plans and expectations. The candidate must be capable of living independently, maintaining employment and must be motivated to become independent. Once accepted into the program, the youth will be on a 30 day trust building period to establish a baseline. The AO program will allow the youth to set up a structured daily routine that will allow the participant the opportunity to practice decision making skills, employment skills including work ethic and independent living exercises and activities. Due to the preparation time involved, it is recommended that the youth participate in the AO program at least 3 months prior to aging out.
This program was developed to assist youth that will be aging out of care. Youth aging out of care are typically not successful. Many of the problems and poor decisions that youth make as they begin independence can be attributed to lack of experience in decision making. Many of them have spent a significant amount of time in facilities where they are told what to do and when to do it providing no critical thinking or decision making.
The AO program is trust based and provides opportunities and privileges that typically are not seen in a residential setting and will allow the youth to practice making decisions on their own with gentle guidance from staff while still living in a structured environment. If youth are employed and productive, they may have a cell phone, outings with friends and privileges outside the scope of a group home. Of course, all activities and privileges will be approved by their caseworker. Most importantly, the youth will learn how to successfully have a say in their life and in their choices. A successful AO youth will not hear the word "no", they will instead hear the word, "why?"
Each youth will have an independent case plan, developed by the youth, family, staff, DFS caseworker, independent living coordinator and their therapist. This plan will identify areas of concern the youth may still have and address appropriate consequences for slipping into non-productive behaviors. There will be incentives and rewards provided for utilizing good decision making and successful employment/education. YAHA will coordinate to ensure each youth is in possession of their Birth Certificate, Social Security card and their State ID card or Drivers License (by taking Drivers Education) before leaving the program. Most all youth leaving this program to venture out on their own, leave with a vehicle, insurance and a place to live that contains all essential household belongings. If the youth is college bound, all paperwork and financial aid information will be completed at YAHA prior to leaving.