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February 2024
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Foster360 Awarded $125,000 from Mercy C.A.R.E.S. to Support Safe Housing, Trauma-Informed Services for Local Youth Aging Out of Foster Care
By Alison Bailin - Thursday Dec 14, 2023
Research shows that 900 children age out of foster care in Arizona each year, and 50% become homeless within two years. In an effort to combat this cycle of trauma, poverty, and housing insecurity, Foster360 has been awarded a 2023 Mercy C.A.R.E.S. Community Reinvestment Grant in the amount of $125,000. Foster360 works to break the cycle of homelessness and adversity for youth aging out of foster care by providing holistic wraparound services and safe housing in a trauma-informed, community-centric, and compassionate environment. The grant will fund the organization’s initial campus in Phoenix, which opened in 2019, as well as its newly opened campus in Tempe.

The Phoenix campus supports young adults 18 and older who have aged out of the foster care system, providing a safe home environment. The organization also provides holistic trauma-informed care, life skills development, community partnerships and workshops through Barrow Neurological Institute, Midwestern University, Junior Achievement of Arizona, Honor Health, and others.

“We also provide oft-overlooked services for individuals who have been through their level of trauma including traumatic brain injury intervention and support, nervous system calming, and introductory work as it relates to the re-wiring of neuropathways,” said Sommer Knight, co-executive director of Foster360 as well as a veteran trauma and resiliency life coach.

The Tempe campus, which opened in November, serves as a second step in the program for these young adults.

“This step allows our youth more empowerment and independence,” said Elena Reid, co-director of Foster360. “The new facility allows us to focus on our clients’ long-term plans through trauma-informed financial literacy, savings plans, education and real-world practice as it relates to recognizing and maintaining healthy relationships, maintaining employment, identified career paths and schooling, and ultimately being one step closer to never being homeless again.”

The Tempe campus features single units, so its resident youth take on the responsibility for their own space, and the goal is to serve as the steppingstone that so many young people need to successfully transition toward the next stage in their lives at their own pace. They can stay in the program for up to four years.

“Mercy Care is a trusted partner with a legacy of helping Arizonans achieve better health since 1985. Mercy C.A.R.E.S., which stands for Community Action Resources Education and Service, is Mercy Care’s community giving initiative, and amplifies our work to support the whole-health needs of Arizonans, deliver quality outcomes, promote health equity, and prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation,” said Karrie Steving, Children's System of Care and Department of Child Safety administrator at Mercy Care. “Through this partnership with Foster 360, we’re able to remove barriers to housing for youth who are aging out of foster care and offer the additional support needed to help them live a healthier life and achieve their full potential.”

Since its inception Mercy C.A.R.E.S. has focused on partnerships with organizations across the state whose health focus areas are aligned with Mercy Care’s community health focuses, which are:
• Managing Chronic Conditions: programs that implement focused strategies for those at risk of or living with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
• Supporting Mental Health and Well-Being: programs that promote improved quality of life by focusing on the eight dimensions of wellness, which are: social, environmental, physical, emotional, spiritual, occupational, intellectual, and financial.
• Addressing Housing Security: programs that create a comprehensive system to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief, and a one-time experience.
• Empowering Recovery from Substance Use: programs that increase screening, referral, and treatment opportunities for the three high-impact addictions, which are opioids, tobacco, and alcohol.

About Mercy Care
Mercy Care is a not-for-profit Medicaid managed-care health plan, serving AHCCCS members in Arizona since 1985. Mercy Care is a local company sponsored by Dignity Health and Ascension Health. Mercy Care provides access to physical and behavioral health care services for Medicaid-eligible families, children, seniors, and individuals with developmental/cognitive disabilities. Learn more at http://www.MercyCareAZ.org.