The Choice Program at UMBC utilizes a community-based, family-centered approach in order to promote quality, cost-effective outcomes for young people and families in Maryland communities. We engage in a collaborative process of service: where young people set goals for themselves and are held accountable by supportive adults along the way. Our AmeriCorps Members are our clients’ biggest advocates and work tirelessly to connect families to self-identified needed resources and reinforce a strengths-based approach to youth development. Focus areas include: job readiness training, education support, foster care diversion, and probation support.
The majority of our direct care support is provided by AmeriCorps Members dedicating a year of service to Maryland. Our youth are referred from a variety of different sources including the juvenile justice system, social services system, Maryland public schools and the community.
Key Components Of Our Model
To us, youth development includes: being available to our youth consistently, often making visits to meet with them on a daily basis; using a strengths-based approach to promote positive self-image; using a holistic approach to honor every aspect of a person’s life; developing high expectations and holding youth accountable to their own progress on goals; forming a mentoring relationship that is built on trust and rapport; engaging with families and assisting as a communication link; fostering self-sufficiency by building life-skills; providing opportunities for meaningful engagement through structured after-school, weekend and summer activities.
To us, advocacy includes: standing by our youth during times they are navigating formalized systems such as the Department of Juvenile Services, Department of Social Services, Department of Education; opening up lines of communication between community, school, legal and familial stakeholders; attend key meetings in order to attest to our youth’s strengths and report back on their progress; ensuring youth have access to their right for a meaningful education and supportive school environment; and providing crisis intervention.
To us, accountability includes: assisting youth in the process of goal-setting and achievement; checking in with youth on a consistent basis to monitor their progress on goals; supporting youth as they strive to meet expectations of their home, school and work environments; and monitoring youth progress on probation requirements and curfew.