LifeSet expanding in Missouri — the “Show-Me” State
Julie Lester, chief program officer for the Missouri Alliance for Children and Families (MACF), says the “Show-Me” State not only needed LifeSet but craved something like it. Initial implementation proceeded despite the pandemic, and now MACF is expanding LifeSet to a second location.
“People are really hungry for more intensive support for older youth,” Lester said. “I talk about the outcomes we’ve seen… the difference in this model with more structure, with more clinical consultation, with more intentional goal setting, we are seeing the outcomes we should be seeing with our older youth.
“I wish we could have a team in every part of the state right now,” she said.
MACF pinpointed the southwest Missouri region for the state’s first LifeSet team in 2019. According to Lester, Springfield and the surrounding counties had more youth that needed the services LifeSet provides.
The organization is now expanding the program from southwest Missouri to the Kansas City metro area. The reason is simple: LifeSet produces positive outcomes.
“In late 2019/early 2020, the Children’s Division, the public child welfare agency in Missouri asked MACF to partner with them to try this model (LifeSet),” Lester said. “I had been aware of this model when I was with the Children’s Division and thought it was really intriguing.”
Then COVID-19 happened, and the world seemed to stop. “The pandemic brought some challenges, but we jumped in and got our team together. We’ve been really pleased with how things have gone,” Lester said.
“What I’m pleasantly surprised by are the outcomes we are seeing with the young people,” Lester said. “The difference I see—and what I’ve been a big proponent of in Missouri—is LifeSet makes us think about outcomes for our older youth and the supports we’re able to give them. We were lacking in that area as a state trying to serve this population.”
LifeSet’s initial launch included thorough training led by Youth Villages and support by LifeSet Care Manager Supervisor Jill Cobb. “Jill is on top of it and very organized. She really saw the value in the program, and she supported her staff doing this model,” Lester said.
So, about those outcomes? Lester says LifeSet has helped more youth get their driver’s license, earn their high school diplomas and find stable placements. “That’s because of goal setting (in LifeSet) and re-visiting those goals every week and having the staff focused on what the youth want to work on,” Lester added. “Having LifeSet driven by the young people is great, and that’s the way we need to do all of our work for young people that age.”
Lester talks about a 19-year-old young man who had always wanted a car but thought getting one would be impossible. He was able to do it through goal setting in LifeSet. Lester recalls a young woman who had a child and was pregnant with her second. She wanted to exit care but remained in LifeSet and is now doing a great job caring for her children.
In addition to life skills, LifeSet has helped young people in other ways, especially in reconnecting them with family members and friends.
“It might be a family member that the youth might not have had contact with for a long time and trying to work through those issues,” Lester said. “We are trying to connect them with people meaningful in their lives.”