Empowering Youth for Independent Success
The GPS Connect program is a transformative twelve-week program designed to empower youth aging out of care with the necessary skills and support to confidently navigate independent living.
What sets GPS Connect apart is its unwavering commitment to building a strong support system for these remarkable youth. Through CASO’s community connections and mentorship, participants are given the opportunity to grow and thrive. Our program brings together a network of dedicated community partners, including esteemed organizations like RBC, YouTurn, Art in Jest, CHEO Youthnet, Operation Come Home and Algonquin College. Together, we extend our resources and expertise to uplift the lives of these young individuals.
Central to the program’s impact is the personalized mentorship provided to each participant. Mentors from the youth’s preexisting social network guide them through a range of experiential learning activities and enjoyable group outings, fostering a sense of belonging and support that can truly transform their journey toward independence.
Participants engage in workshops on personal financial management, equipping them with the skills needed to confidently navigate their finances. They also delve into cooking and healthy eating, promoting habits that support physical well-being. Sessions on physical health and activity foster an active lifestyle, while those focused on mental health and social well-being provide valuable tools for maintaining positive relationships.
The program goes beyond personal growth and extends its reach to education and employment. It empowers participants to identify pathways for academic success and develop valuable job-seeking skills. Independent problem-solving is emphasized, equipping youth with the ability to overcome obstacles. Finally, GPS Connect educates participants on how to attain and maintain suitable housing, ensuring they have a safe and stable environment.
By working with youth to develop the tools to build their own comprehensive support system, providing personalized mentorship, and equipping them with essential life skills, GPS Connect is making a remarkable difference in the lives of youth aging out of the child welfare system. Through this initiative youth have accessed tools and knowledge that increase their confidence to navigate the challenging transition to independence. GPS Connect directly contributes to guiding CASO’s work and upholding our agency’s commitment to ensuring that no youth has to face the journey of aging out of care alone.
- Participants reported a 43% increase in their self-assessed knowledge of organizations in their community that they could turn to for support and education on managing personal finances.
- Youth reported a 39.5% increase in their self-assessed ability to secure and maintain affordable housing after completing the 12-week GPS Connect program.
- Upon completion of the program, there was an 18% increase in overall confidence among youth in their ability to live independently, comfortably, and successfully the way that they want to.
Guide, Partner, Succeed – Meet Ash
After entering foster care at 16, Ash faced uncertainty regarding their potential for post-secondary education. But through CASO’s GPS Connect Program, Ash built a community network, developed essential independent living skills, and gained the confidence to explore various educational paths.
“My favorite part of the program was visiting Algonquin College,” said Ash, now 17 years old. “I didn’t think college was for me since I’ve done so much online schooling, but now it’s something I’ll consider. I think I really want to do nursing.”
Reflecting on their journey, Ash highlighted the significance of accessing available resources while in care.
They emphasized the program’s activities, support, and gift cards and vouchers, which not only alleviated financial burdens but also equipped them with the necessary tools for a brighter future.
The program also facilitated a connection for Ash with their mentor, Julie, who happened to be their sister. This invaluable mentorship played a vital role in helping Ash establish networks within the community and reinforce existing relationships, providing crucial support during their transition to independent living.
“It was really helpful to have my sister there because she had moved out on her own as well,” said Ash. We were able to talk about the program afterwards and I could share with her what I learned.”
Ash emphasized their shared experiences and bond that was fortified through GPS Connect. This connection serves as a testament to CASO’s unwavering commitment to ensuring that no youth exit the care system feeling isolated or alone. By nurturing these strong relationships, GPS Connect helps foster a sense of belonging and support, equipping youth with essential skills and a network that extends far beyond their time in care.