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Kids & Education

Sunset facility introduces new program for foster care and court-involved youth

Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow (OBT), an organization that helps young adults gain job skills and work experience, is bringing a new program to its Sunset Park location, 783 Fourth Avenue, to further assist local youth.

On Monday, May 16, OBT started the Young Adult Internship Program Plus, an extension of its original program which will focus on former foster care kids and juveniles with checkered records .

“The Department of Youth and Career Development (DYCD) and the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) felt that this specific subgroup needed an even more intensive layer of support,” said Dani Smejkal, senior director of OBT. “There are not a lot of services targeted for that specific population. It’s a struggle for any old young adult to go to work. And with the added challenge for foster care and juvenile youth, it’s more difficult.”

The program consists of 17 participants from 16 to 24 years of age. The first phase of the program is orientation, that lasts up to four weeks, in which participants are on site with providers for work readiness training, which include creating resumes and cover letters, financial literacy and stress management.

The second phase, which spans 10 to 11 weeks, is the internship component. “They get placed at an internship site for 20 hours a week. And then, they return to us once a week for five-hour training,” she said.

OBT will also assist students in getting diplomas, full-time employment, and certifications in various fields.

The original Young Adult Internship Program was created in 2007. The difference between the two is that the Plus program includes far fewer participants so that staff can focus more on each individual.

“It is a challenge for young adults to have employment even after they have paid their penance. Plus covers both sides and helps them overcome that hurdle and provides them with employment opportunities,” Smejkal said. “The staff spends a lot of time with young adults in foster care that may suffer mental health issues. They may not have a supportive family or may have other obstacles. The staff is there to help them deal with challenges.”

She added that this pilot program is the first of its kind.  “Usually, large agencies have trouble working together. This is one of the first times that two city agencies are coming together to support this,” she said. “The more foster care providers and juvenile justice providers know about this and us, the excitement will continue to spread.”

The Plus program accepts new students every 14 weeks. For more information, visit www.obtjobs.org.

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