Our vision is to create an eighteen month transitional housing and support services program that assists youth and young adults, ages 16-21, transitioning out of the foster care and juvenile justice systems.
Our mission is to provide the support and resources necessary to assist this specific target population to successfully transition into mainstream society to lead productive lives. Our current timeline to make this vision a reality is set for June of 2012.
Our goal is to provide a safe and supportive environment that gives the participants an opportunity to acquire the life skills necessary to become productive, integrated members of society.
In New Jersey, approximately 800 youth annually are aging out of the foster care system and become independent of state support. These youth have a higher rate of unemployment, lower educational attainment, higher rates of incarceration, a greater dependence on public assistance, have a higher rate of non-marital children and engage in substance abuse and other high risk behaviors.
Further, in the State of New Jersey, over the next six years nearly 10,000 youth offenders will return to communities across the State. However, statistics indicate that one third of these offenders will commit new crimes and return to the juvenile justice system at the cost of more than 82 million dollars.
Against the backdrop of the normal challenges of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood, today’s youth face new complex challenges and obstacles that were not consideration for prior generations. High rates of family mobility, lack of social networks in neighborhoods, and larger and more diverse school settings, have changed the landscape of family and community life for this generation. As a result communities nationwide are embracing efforts to promote the healthy growth and development of youth by providing them with the supports and experiences necessary to successfully transition to adulthood.
Pressure to raise student achievement, the need for safe and enriching environments for youth during out-of-school time, a focus on building the skills and competencies of young people, and an emphasis on preventing risky behaviors have all fueled the demand for quality youth programs.
Currently, more than 4000 youth mentoring organizations nationwide connect youth to supportive, caring individuals who help provide guidance and stability to youth as they face adolescence. Despite the heightened demand and the apparent benefits of quality, long term mentoring programs, only 2.5 million of the 17.6 million youth in special need of mentors have one.
Life Opportunities Inc. tackles this challenge through partnering with the community in several areas:
Mentoring – Positive interaction between the youth and their adult advisors. Through this interaction the youth will become aware of the importance of positive self-esteem., which in turn allows each of them to develop into their full potential, capable of making informed, responsible decisions as involved members of our community.
Capacity Building and Skill Development – Activities that will assist the youth in retaining skills and resources that will strengthen and improve their personal and collective ability to increase their effectiveness as students and as leaders in their respective communities and neighborhoods. Such activities will include tutoring, study skills training, financial literacy training, instruction leading to the completion of secondary school that includes dropout prevention strategies
Character Development – A deliberate attempt to move an agenda that instills basic values and morals in the youth participants. Interwoven in all aspects of our programmatic are the principles of honesty, respect, responsibility, empathy, and civic duty.
Community Service – During the period of matriculation, the youth will be responsible for developing and implementing a community service project. The objective is for the youth to see that it is their responsibility and civic duty to take a proactive role in making their community a better place to live.