GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – D.A. Blodgett – St. John’s, a leading provider of child welfare and human services in West Michigan, is pleased to launch its distinctive Independent Living Plus (ILP) program—a transformative initiative designed specifically for youth aging out of foster care. This program, situated on the DABSJ campus, aims to provide a safety net and specialized assistance to address the unique challenges the youth face.
“Youth aging out of foster care without a guardian or adoptive parent are embarking on adulthood without the supportive network many of us are fortunate to have had,” said Mary Muliett, DABSJ President and CEO. “It’s a vulnerable position that requires specialized support, and that’s exactly what our Independent Living Plus program aims to provide.”
Research has consistently shown that youth aging out of foster care face heightened risks, including homelessness, human trafficking, and incarceration — an alarming phenomenon known as the foster-care-to-prison pipeline. With the ILP program, DABSJ seeks to break the cycles put forth by the system and provide a supportive bridge into adulthood.
“We want the youth to be independent, but not alone,” said Muliett. “By living in a home right here on the DABSJ campus, youth can easily connect with the supports they need, whether it’s a coach helping them pursue college and careers, peers they can connect and build community with, or therapy and psychiatric care. They get to develop their own goals and dreams – so care provided with them, not for them.”
ILP residents will have access to on-site coaching, therapy, medical/psychiatric support, and the full range of amenities on the DABSJ campus. The program is open to youth ages 16-19, and residents must be referred to the program by a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services or agency foster care case worker.
“We have recognized the need for a specialized Independent Living Plus program for a considerable time,” Muliett said. “All too often, these youth are at risk of falling through the cracks. Our program is a beacon of hope, providing a safety net and circle of support to ensure they not only survive but thrive as they transition into adulthood. This is more than just a program; it’s a commitment to giving youth the opportunity to rewrite their futures.”
To learn more about DABSJ’s Independent Living Plus program and access referral information, visit https://dabsj.org/what-we-do/independent-living