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Liz Squibb knows how to help foster children - she was one herself

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Courtesy of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative

(Read caption) LIz Squibb (far left) helps children who grow up in foster care prepare for life on their own. 'Finding employment is hard enough at this time for young people, let alone children from foster care,' she says.

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A car is a possession many people probably take for granted.

But for many former foster children, it’s a necessity that’s often out of their reach, says Liz Squibb, the senior associate director for the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.

“Our young people are saying to us, 'I needed the car to get to school, I needed the car to get to work,” Ms. Squibb says.

Saving for a big purchase, such as a car, isn't easy for teens and young adults. But as part of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, based in St. Louis, former foster children can sign up for the Opportunity Passport program, which allows them to open a matched savings account. For every dollar the youth deposits, the initiative matches it.

“We'll increase the amount of opportunity a young person has to save – to participate in mainstream banking,” Squibb says of the program.

Though a car was the most popular purchase in the Opportunity Passport program, participants also often use the funds to pay for rent or education costs, according to data published by the initiative in 2009.

While Opportunity Passport is one of its main programs, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative addresses many other challenges facing former foster children. Founded in 2001 and named after the founder of United Parcel Service, the initiative has a long-term goal for every former foster child: that as they leave foster care they successfully move into adulthood.

The initiative  works with organizations and agencies in 15 states that serve children in foster care. It focuses its work on young adults between the ages of 14 and 25 who are leaving their foster homes and facing life on their own.

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