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Providing tools for success through financial education & matched savings 

On March 16, 2023, youth and adult supporters gathered at the Capital Center’s Hall of Flags in Augusta to celebrate the financial achievements of Maine’s youth in foster care: the Opportunity Passport™.

 

Advocates for youth in foster care gathered at the state house in Augusta Thursday to celebrate a program that helps kids who age out of the system.

Opportunity Passport provides critical financial support to hundreds of young Mainers transitioning to adulthood, many of whom have experienced homelessness or other challenges.

Through a partnership with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Jobs for Maine Graduates, and the Maine Youth Transition Collaborative, the program gives a boost to young people to help pay for everything from housing to education.

Money saved by young people enrolled in the program is matched dollar for dollar up to $1,000 a year. For example, if someone has $500 saved for car, Opportunity Passport provides $500. 

The funding has now surpassed a total of $2 million and helped more than 700 people.

"Think about 2 million dollars and what that means," DHHS commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said. "That means money for a down payment on an apartment or house. It means a car that's needed to get to a job or college. It could also mean saving or investment for the future."

While youth traditionally age out of foster care at 18, in Maine they can opt into extended care until the age of 21.

Alexander Buzzell, who is now part of the Youth Leadership Advisory Team, said the program not only helped him earn a degree and achieve a successful career in renewable energy it gave him somewhere to go when he found himself living out of his car.

"This program is absolutely critical to my success," Buzzell told NEWS CENTER Maine. "There are so many points in my life that something as simple as $100 could have stopped me from being where I am today."

In addition to the money, Opportunity Passport also provides financial literacy courses and mentoring support.

Author: Zach Blanchard (NEWS CENTER Maine)

Published: 8:03 PM EDT March 16, 2023

Updated: 8:03 PM EDT March 16, 2023

Who is eligible? 

Eligible youth must be referred to upcoming Opportunity Passport® training. Eligible youth meet the following criteria:

  • Young Mainers from the age of 14, up until their 26th birthday who have spent at least one day in foster care after their 14th birthday

  • Have a government-issued identification

  • State ID, driver's license, or passport

  • Have a job or reliable source of income

  • Participate in financial education training sessions

  • To enroll or make a referral to Opportunity Passport®, email OP@jmg.org, call 207-705-3272, or complete our referral form.

How does the program work?

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After determination of eligibility and training, youth open a bank account at a financial institution of their choice. Money saved by enrolled youth will be matched, dollar for dollar up to $1,000 per year ($3,000 lifetime maximum), toward the purchase of specific assets. 

What type of purchases are eligible for matching funds?

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  • Education: Tuition and room & board, computers 

  • Housing: Rent, the purchase of a home, furnishings 

  • Transportation: Vehicles and certain associated expenses & repairs, bus passes 

  • Medical: dental and health costs 

  • Credit Building & credit repair 

How do you get involved in Opportunity Passport™? 

  • Referrals can come from caseworkers, foster parents, educators, or support staff. Self-referrals are also encouraged. 

  • For more information, or to download a referral form with instructions, click here

  • Hundreds of Maine youth who are currently or formerly in foster care have benefited from Opportunity Passport™ funded by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, the Maine Department of Health & Human Services, and private funders. 

Empower
Growth

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