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Barbara A. Duffy, Vice President of Advancement



New Program for Foster Youth assists at a Critical time

HopeWell aims to create a more secure path to adulthood


Dedham, MA – HopeWell, one of the state’s leading providers of intensive treatment foster care, has launched an innovative program to support Boston area youth transitioning out of foster care. My First PlaceTM (MFP) provides individualized education, employment support, and case management with an essential added ingredient: safe, stable housing – an especially critical support given Boston’s tight rental market.


HopeWell President and CEO Shaheer Mustafa stated, “As a society, we have a long way to go in addressing the underlying reasons for poverty, high incarceration rates, and limited social mobility. My First Place is designed to give youth a stronger foundation to tackle these challenges, so instead of perpetuating discrimination we are directly combatting it.”


Every year, nearly 900 youth transition out of foster care in Massachusetts. A national study illustrated that deep-rooted issues of inequity and bias lead to some tough statistics: more than half of transition-age foster youth (18-22 years old) are unemployed, nearly 40% experience homelessness, and fewer than 3% will graduate from college.


HopeWell’s extensive experience in the field highlighted the particular problem of safe, stable, affordable housing for youth leaving foster care. Mustafa noted, “Relying on homeless shelters or transient housing creates a huge hurdle at a time in their lives when these youth are already facing enormous challenges. That’s why we were particularly interested in MFP’s approach.”


My First Place was started nearly two decades ago by the Oakland, CA nonprofit First Place for YouthTM, which developed a national reputation for achieving impressive outcomes with transition age youth. Looking to scale the MFP model nationally, First Place for YouthTM chose Massachusetts as its first MFP expansion site and HopeWell as its inaugural partner.


The program launched in early 2018 and HopeWell aims to expand to serve 150 youth within three years. The team-based approach includes a Youth Advocate (a social worker), an Education and Employment Specialist, and a Housing Specialist, who support youth in working towards healthy living, education, employment, and housing goals that the youth sets for himself/herself.


MFP Program Director Janet Daly explained, “Navigating early adulthood successfully – college, first job, first apartment, independence, life skills – can be challenging for any young adult. Many youth rely on family for financial support to provide a home base and a margin for error during their transition to adulthood. We want to ensure that foster youth have the same safety net as their peers.”


HopeWell is partnering with state agencies and has sought and secured additional funding from The Boston Foundation, the Kraft Family Foundation, State Street Foundation and Liberty Mutual Foundation, among others, to launch My First PlaceTM.


About HopeWell: HopeWell ( is a private, nonprofit social services agency based in metro Boston with regional offices in Massachusetts and East Hartford, CT. The agency began in Roxbury, MA with the creation of the first community-based residential program for boys in Massachusetts. Today HopeWell serves approximately 1,200 children and teens in foster care annually as well as provides staffed residences for adults with disabilities, family support and stabilization services, a residential program for pregnant and parenting teens, and a new initiative to assist teens in foster care move into adulthood successfully.


About First Place for YouthTM: First Place ( was founded in 1998 in response to the problems of poverty and homelessness that affect so many young people who grow up in foster care. First Place was the first nonprofit organization in Northern California dedicated exclusively to addressing the lack of affordable housing and resources for former foster kids and has grown to become a nationally-recognized model operating in six California counties, and serves more than 1,400 youth annually build the skills they need to make a successful transition to self-sufficiency and responsible adulthood.