Marsh Foundation Aims to Teach Youth Valuable Life Skills through Independent Living Program
VAN WERT, Ohio – Transitioning to adulthood is one of the most difficult times of a person’s life. It’s even more difficult for youth who are in residential or foster care. Without a parent to travel this journey with, these youth sometimes are lacking the important skills and knowledge needed to become a successful adult. This is why the Independent Living Program (IDL) at The Marsh is such an integral part of the continuum of care. There is a commitment to helping ensure youth at The Marsh start off strong with a good foundation of experience and skills when they leave care.
Christina Flinn, Community Psychiatric Support (CPST), works directly with the youth at The Marsh that are aged 15 ½ and over in the IDL group on campus. Many recent projects have been related to money. They have worked on a bill paying project, paying monthly bills, balancing a checkbook and managing a budget. Lessons have included talking about credit, understanding the language and the math of borrowing money.
“Being able to manage your money is one of the most important things an adult has to learn to do,” said Flinn. “Often our youth have no idea how to begin, then they suddenly have to do it when they go out on their own. With projects we do as part of IDL, they are able to make mistakes, ask questions, and learn so that when they have to do these things for real, it is not so scary,” she said.
Another focus of the IDL group has been cooking. A cooking class has been held once a month at the First Presbyterian Church in Van Wert. These classes not only teach hands-on meal preparation skills like measuring, chopping and serving, but they also teach the planning and budgeting aspect. Youth are responsible for planning the meal on a specified budget, purchasing the needed ingredients and then preparing the meal.
It’s a learning experience they say they enjoy. One girl in the program stated practical reasons for liking the cooking class. “This will help you survive,” she said. “It isn’t possible to eat raw food; this cooking is something you need to know how to do.”
Another stated that she likes to cook and it’s beneficial to her well-being. “It helps me to cope,” she said. Another said she hopes to go to Vantage and study culinary arts in the future. Moving forward, these skills are something that they will be able to take with them when they leave The Marsh’s program.
Over the past summer, monthly activities were held that promoted social awareness. Activities included things like visiting a car dealership and taking public transportation. These are things that many of the youth will need to do in the future but as of yet have never been exposed to. Future plans also include first aid and CPR training.
According to Flinn, a lot of people tend to learn better by doing, and the youth at The Marsh are no different. “It is boring to talk about money but when you have to balance a checkbook and figure out how to pay the bills on time and still have money left over to eat, there is more of an impact,” she said. Physically doing these types of tasks helps the youth to remember them. “We talk about healthy eating but actually going to the grocery store or farmer’s market, touching the food and then bringing it home to cook it makes it more memorable,” she added.
The IDL group has been credited with several youth successes. They have discussions about saving money and how they will be able to live within their means instead of on credit. The youth that have jobs have been actively saving money. “I have also seen some IDL youth make their own medical appointments and actively take a role in their personal health,” Flinn said. They fill out their own medical paperwork, memorized their social security number and educate themselves about side effects to their medications.
Some of these things may be taken for granted by most, but for youth in care they are often things that can get overlooked. It is important to The Marsh Foundation to not only provide housing and meals for youth, but to also impart knowledge and lessons that will stick with them well into their future.
Photo caption: The IDL group has recently started a series of cooking classes which involve planning, budgeting and preparing the meal.