Marrakech’s Work with Youth: The Community Based Life Skills (CBLS) Program

In 2008, Marrakech was awarded the DCF Community Based Life Skills (CBLS) program for Metro New Haven and Greater New Haven. CBLS provides certification in Life Skills to youth in the foster care system who are 15 years of age or older. The program utilizes the Ansell Casey Life Skills curriculum, which includes an introductory life skills assessment and a combination of experiential learning approaches (www.caseylifeskills.com). 

In addition to the self-assessment, primary caregivers or other adults involved in the youths’ lives are requested to take part in a matching assessment of the youth’s life skills. Once assessed, a program consisting of a minimum of 100 hours is designed for the youth that covers classroom time, individual time and community-based services over a span of 12 months.

The life skills curriculum includes the following domains: educational/vocational planning, career planning, communication, daily living, home life, housing and money management, self care, social relationships, work life, work and study skills and parenting when applicable.  Primary caregivers are engaged in the program and are encouraged to carry over the skills taught in the classroom to the home environment.

Upon completion of the program, youth participate in a graduation ceremony, receive completion certificates and earn up to $125.00 (based on attendance and participation). The youth are also provided a modest stipend for each hour of classroom time that they complete.  This program is designed for youth who do not need or cannot commit to the more comprehensive Work to Learn program, but who do require the life skills development to transition successfully from foster care to independence.

Together, the Work to Learn program and Community Based Life Skills Program serve approximately 115 youth at any given time and up to 150 youth in the course of a year. That is about 11.5% of the total Marrakech consumer base.  While that is still a fairly small portion, it growing every year.  Marrakech is a youth services provider!

If you want to learn more about the Work to Learn program or and Community Based Life Skills Program, please contact Gerry Zarra at (203) 389-2970, extension 1303 or gzarra@marrakechinc.org.


Marrakech’s Work with Youth: A Model for Success!

The Work to Learn Centers are based on the Work to Learn Model developed by Alan MacKenzie of Street Smart Ventures (www.ssventures.com). The general idea is that when you integrate life and academic skills into paid work experiences, youth are more likely to retain the information and apply it to real life situations. 

At the beginning of the program, each youth participates in a Youth-Run Business, typically facilitated by a member of the local business community at Marrakech or at a local business nearby.  Each youth has the opportunity to participate in several Youth-Run Businesses for as long as they would like or until basic work readiness skills such as timeliness, ability to stay on task and following directions are demonstrated. 

Following the Youth Business, they can move on to an external internship where the youth will be mentored by a member of the local business community and paid a stipend from Marrakech. Finally, youth will be moved to job placement services to seek part time or full time employment.

All youth admitted to the Work to Learn program (90 youth at any given time between the two sites) have an Individual Development Account (IDA) opened in their name. Youth deposit a percentage of the stipend money towards their future savings. Youth who remain active with DCF and the Work to Learn Center may receive a match of up to $1,000 per year (not to exceed $3,000 over 3 years) when withdrawing money from their IDAs for the purchase of approved assets.  Approved assets are stock market investments or purchases made to meet educational, transportation or housing needs.

The Work to Learn Centers have shown that youth who participate in the programs are graduating from high school and successfully moving on to post-secondary training, college or full time employment.  In fact, many of them are able to access CHAP services (discussed in our previous blog post) to assist them with moving from the structured environment of foster care and the Work to Learn program, to living and managing on their own for the first time.

The raised beds in the picture below is one of the Work to Learn Center's Youth Business projects.  Youth are learning the basics of farming and are then able to use the produce grown in their culinary program.

Next up - DCF Community Based Life Skills Program – Learn more in our next Blog post!


Marrakech’s Work with Youth: A Big Part of Who We Have Become!

In honor of International Youth Day (August 12th), we thought we would take a little time to showcase some of our youth programs this month.  While Marrakech is mostly known for serving adults with developmental and psychiatric disabilities, our consumer population has become progressively diverse over the last decade or so.  Many people out there, maybe even you, may not know that for the last 8 years Marrakech has provided dedicated programs and services to youth and young adults aging out of the foster care system.

It all started in 2005 when Marrakech began to provide case management services under the Department of Children and Families (DCF) Community Housing Assistance Program (CHAP).  While working with this population is a bit different than some of the work we have done in the past, it is similar to the other programs Marrakech provides in that the goals are all centered on increasing self-sufficiency and improving each young person’s quality of life. 

In order to achieve this, a Marrakech Case Manager works with assigned youth to help them move into their own apartments, teach them practical life skills, assist them with money management and household responsibilities, all while the youth attend school and maintain employment.

In 2006, Marrakech was awarded the Work to Learn program in New Haven and then in 2008, a second Work to Learn program in Waterbury.  In fact, Marrakech runs two out the five Work to Learn sites throughout the State of Connecticut!  The Work to Learn Centers serve youth ages 14-23 who are currently in or transitioning from the DCF Foster Care System. It serves as a stepping stone for youth who need to learn various life skills, develop their job skills, and strive towards graduating from high school. All of this focuses on preparing each student for some type of post-secondary education or training.  

The program also provides a structured and comprehensive calendar of activities that encompasses skill development in a range of areas including basic education, employment, financial literacy, life skills, and personal and community relationships.  Marrakech’s Youth Coaches provide additional case management support, advocacy and referral to other support services as needed.

Learn more about the Work to Learn Model in our next Blog post!