- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Almost 300 teenagers age out of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services each year without being adopted or reunited with their biological families, according to the agency.

While many of the 16,000 children who spent some time in DHS care last year eventually found a permanent family, others exit the system on their own, The Oklahoman reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1T64Ius ).

DHS said studies indicate that youth aging out of foster care face difficulties finding housing or a landlord willing to rent to them, a lack of health insurance and few options for employment or job training.

“We know that if (youth) don’t have a permanent connection with a family or if they are not adopted or in a guardian type situation by the time they leave, they face a lot of challenges,” DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said. “These youth need to have some type of support because we know that bad things will happen if they don’t have someone helping them.”

Bucking those odds often requires a combination of determination on the part of the young adult and support from a family-like source.

Recognizing the need to help youth transition to adulthood as they leave state custody, DHS has partnered with Youth Villages to bring its YVLifeSet program to Oklahoma. Funded largely through a $2.8 million donation from The Arnall Family Foundation, YVLifeSet connects a teenager preparing to age out with a specialist who is available around the clock.

“What we are trying to do is catch them before they exit custody so we can teach them some skills they will need when they are an adult,” said Jessica Moore, Youth Villages’ assistant director in Oklahoma. “Sometimes they have been in care for so long that they are ready to leave and feel like they can be on their own, but they could use the help.”

With offices in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, YVLifeSet hopes to grow the program large enough in the coming years to offer help to any teenager aging out of DHS care.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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