By Katherine E. Bono, LMSW, YASS Coordinator, The Children’s Center and Shawn Robinson, BS, Specialist II, Lead/Intake-YASS, The Children’s Center, Detroit

This is the first of two-part post on The Children’s Center’s YASS program

In 2006, The Children’s Center filled a great need by creating the Young Adult Self Sufficiency (YASS) program. As children aged out of foster care at 18, they were left to manage on their own with few life skills or preparation. Many ended up dropping out of school, homeless, jobless or in jail. In fact, 21.5% of Michigan teens ages 16-19 are unemployed. About 50% of foster care teens do not graduate high school, with 40% homeless in the first year they leave foster care.  The YASS program was created to give young people leaving the foster care program a chance to find success in an independent living situation.

Who does YASS serve?

The YASS program serves youth ages 16-21 no longer in the foster care system or those who need to transition to an independent living situation before age 18. We serve young adults in the Detroit area and surrounding counties and suburbs. We recently expanded to serve Monroe, Washtenaw and Genesee counties. Many of the young people in the program still want to be a part of a family. The Children’s Center is selective in admitting people to the program. Young adults in the program must want to be successful and willing to work and meet the goals of the program.

Two Phases to the Program

There are two phases of the YASS program: The Supervised Independent Living program and the Independent Living program. The SIL program allows young people to transition to full independence by first living with and paying rent to a host provider. The host providers work as mentors — and in many cases extended family — to help a teen gain the skills needed to be able to live independently in an apartment.

The Independent Living program is designed to have young adults living independently and working as a contributing member of the community.

Getting from SIL to IL

There is a process for teens in the SIL program to reach independent living status. This usually lasts about three to six months, but sometimes longer. The youth must:

  • Finish school by earning a diploma or GED
  • Open a bank account and be able to budget finances responsibly
  • Pay rent on time and get along with the host provider
  • Obtain legal employment

The Children’s Center provides support to teens in the YASS program at every step. YASS Specialists may help the youth open a bank account, provide transportation to appointments and aid with school and studies. YASS Specialists may even withhold all or part of the government-issued stipend if a young person in the program is not going to school or fulfilling responsibilities.

The Children’s Center also provides an 18-week life skills course that YASS teens are required to complete. The course covers a number of important skills including the job application and interview process, relationships, finances, safety and community activism.


The Children’s Center is proud of the success of the YASS program. In 2012-2013 there was an 85% retention rate of youth in the program and 95% of active youth in YASS who were supposed to graduate did. Even better, 85% of those young people went on to higher education, with 10% of the remaining population working full time.

For more information about the YASS program and The Children’s Center, visit our website. You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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