Blueprints’ new independent living program

Blueprints launched a new program in the summer of 2020. According to Communications Manager Anastasia Barr, Blueprints is a unique nonprofit in the area due to its heavy involvement in childcare services, such as foster care and truancy programs. Their newest service, the Independent Living Program which started July 1, services youth ages 14 to 21 with hard and soft life skills.

Crystal Rivera, who is the Pennsylvania State Manager through Blueprints, oversees their child-welfare units: truancy, foster care, independent living services, after-school programs, in-home services with parenting components, etc.  says sessions for this group are conducted in groups or one-on-one, now virtually due to COVID-19.

“Before the pandemic hit we were doing college tours, going through financial aid, working on employment skills, doing mock interviews and helping them fill out job applications,” Rivera said.

According to Rivera, this program has been successful in Washington County for over 20 years, so the decision was made to bring it to Greene County over the summer. Rivera says the program currently services about 20-30 youth, providing everything a teen would need to successfully transition into adulthood.

“We have a nutrition component: coming up with a menu, teaching them couponing skills and how to cook a meal properly,” Rivera explained. “We do a money management piece teaching them about accounts and how to write a check, we do some sexual health and provide prevention services, drug and alcohol awareness, stress management, etc.”

All of the life skills are the first phase of the program and thereafter is where caseworkers meet one-on-one with those youth in the community to help them transition into adulthood Rivera said. 

“So we’re out into the community finding transportation, finding permanent housing options and talking to landlords, getting those relationships established and things like that,” Rivera said. 

Rivera said the program doesn’t just benefit the youth, but the community they live in.

“As in Washington, these Greene County youth truly love to participate in volunteer opportunities, we’ve collected pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald house, we do a lot of outreach and it’s all how the youth decide they want to spend their time,” she said.

Youth are selected for the program from referrals by the Greene County Juvenile Probation Department or Greene County Children and Youth Services, whom there is constant open communication with Rivera says.

Although the pandemic has altered some of the service’s capabilities, Rivera says she is looking forward to the future.

“Hopefully post-COVID we’d like to have a yearly banquet for all community partners to be a part of and I want to have a huge celebration for all the seniors at the end of every school year graduating the Independent Living Program,” she said. “I want to invite judges and hearing officers, caseworkers and people in the community that really celebrate those youth.”