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Step-Beyond Program

Youth transitioning from foster care into adulthood need help, and that’s what they get from the Step-Beyond Program in Detroit. Participants -- ages 17 through 21 -- receive much-needed life skills and workforce training, counseling, education, and a safe place to call home.
Michigan Nightlight: In your view, what makes your program innovative, effective or remarkable?
The Center for Urban Youth and Family Development Executive Director Marsaille Arbuckle: The program is headed by an individual who has personally experienced the issues and met the challenges of transitioning from foster care to adulthood. We meet challenges head-on in our program -- challenges like substance abuse, homelessness and unwanted pregnancies.
My concept is that one of the major issues that kids face as they make the transition from foster care to adulthood is substance abuse. They start getting high and they ruin their lives. I take them through a rigorous substance abuse program to avoid the risks and pitfalls of substance abuse. We combine a substance abuse prevention program with one that helps them develop the employment skills they need to transition from foster care. We help them learn to navigate social services that
We meet challenges head-on in our program -- challenges like substance abuse, homelessness and unwanted pregnancies.
they’ll need afterward to succeed in life.
What was the best lesson learned in the past year?
That we are having an impact, in various ways, on the youth that we interact with.
When I was fortunate enough to be named a member of the Distinguished Alumni Council at the Indiana University’s School of Public & Environmental Affairs, I found that one of the privileges that comes with that is having two interns funded by the university. They conducted a program evaluation (that proves our effectiveness) by doing a statistical analysis of data that I collected over the past three years. They did surveys to find out if the kids are having legal trouble after they leave the program; they conducted drug, screening and much more.
But more so than any data or analysis is the direct feedback I get from our youth. The basic comments that I hear from these kids before they leave is “I want to be somebody” and “I want to make something of myself.” After the program, they will call me up to share their successes and accomplishments. They’ll tell me that they have a job interview and ask me what they should wear. They also tell me about problems and issues they have -- like legal troubles -- and ask me what they should do about them.
What was the hardest lesson learned in the past year?
That I can’t help everybody in every way. I have had to accept that some kids have needs beyond the assistance that I can
I grew up in the foster care system from the age of two and I understand the challenges that these young people face.
provide. I had a young man that was in the program for two years, and afterward he was incarcerated. He needed additional transitioning, because he had been in jail for several years, but we do not have a re-entry program.
We don’t have the programming in place to help someone like him right now. We might in the future because we continue to develop our programs. He is not the only one who is incarcerated and then ends up on the street again, basically homeless. He was not in jail alone.
What really differentiates this program?
The same exact thing that makes it innovative and remarkable. 
I grew up in the foster care system from the age of two and I understand the challenges that these young people face. I am now 54 years old, with a good education. I’ve raised a family of my own, and I worked in the corporate environment for many years. I am a living testimony that it can be done.
To succeed in life, you must have character, a good education and a noble cause -- all of that takes perseverance, so teaching perseverance is key. You must add them all together and then add friendship, love (you must love yourself before you can love others) and truth. Truth is the word of God, wherever it comes from. If you are a Christian, it comes from the Bible. If you are Jewish, it comes from the scrolls. If you are Muslim, it comes from the Koran. But no matter what, truth comes from the word of God. If you have all of that, you will come up with the three things everybody wants out of life: peace, happiness and prosperity.
What are the keys to success for your program?
I think that utilizing evidence-based programs and other state-of-the-art training materials are the two biggest keys to our success. We combine them with academic preparation and field trips. We bring in exciting speakers who focus on topics that address the issues that our young people face every day.
Also the financial support that we get from agencies, organizations and foundations, including the Hartford Memorial Baptist Church, the Hartford Development Foundation, the Prevention Network, the Youth Development Commission, and the Department of Human Services.
How has the $50,000 award from Maxwell House “Drops of Good” project changed your agency’s ability to help youth in the Step-Beyond Program?
We needed a place. For office space and some living space for Step-Beyond youth-in-transition participants. I mentioned this to a man at church, and he happened to be a banker. He said, “You want an old house? You’ve got an old house.”  He sold me that dilapidated house for $1. I did not know how I would get the funding to renovate the property.  
The $50,000 award has enabled us to turn it into a new semi-independent living and learning center. I am so grateful for this money. The Step-Beyond Program would not be where is today without it.
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  • The Center for Urban Youth and Family Development
    The Center for Urban Youth and Family Development empowers youth that are in and are transitioning out of the foster care system to overcome the struggles and challenges by providing them substance abuse prevention, life skills training, and ...


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