JCFS Life Skills Program prepares at-risk young adults for independence

Do you remember the first time you lived on your own? Did your first load of laundry? Cooked your first meal? Looked for your first job? For any young adult, these can be nerve-wracking tasks. For a young adult with emotional, behavioral, and learning challenges, gaining confidence in these simple skills is the gateway to launching a life of independence.

At age 21, these young people will become independent-with or without having the life skills essential for successful independent living. The new Life Skills Program at Jewish Child & Family Services' (JCFS) Therapeutic Day School (TDS) will allow them to have those skills.

The Life Skills Program at TDS enables more than 120 at-risk youth to gain skills in decision making, time management, interpersonal relationships, team building, and independent living. Existing classroom space has been re-purposed as a small studio apartment, complete with a kitchen, washer and dryer, small bed, mirror, and ample storage space.

Within this amazing space, students learn money management, cooking, cleaning, laundry, using transportation, recycling, nutrition, and health and personal hygiene skills. The Life Skills Program brings social-emotional, motor, academic, and language skills together through functional activity, promoting self-confidence and introducing new opportunities for the future.

The physical space was made possible by a capital grant from The Field Foundation of Illinois and a donation from The Jules and Gwen Knapp Family Foundation, among others. Volunteer Sue Schulman, a Vice President on the JCFS board, helped support the vision of Life Skills not just as a room, but a full-fledged program, by hosting a "Life Skills Room Shower."  While students can learn math and history in the classroom, they also need lessons for future independence, like how to make a sandwich or do laundry. The new Life Skills Program will support those life lessons.

The school registered at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and Schulman hosted a shower at her house. "It was a way for me to introduce my friends to the agency and to show that everyone can be involved at any level," said Schulman. "Everything on the list was bought," she added, "from pots and pans to sheets to a Kitchen Aid Mixer."

When the school day ends, the Life Skills Program and the room that houses it can be used by other JCFS programs such as after-school inclusive recreation and integrated pediatric therapies.

For information on the JCFS Therapeutic Day School, the Life Skills Program, or all services at Jewish Child & Family Services, call (855) ASK-JCFS (855-275-5327) or email ask@jcfs.org.

Jewish Child and Family Services (JCFS) is a partner in serving our community supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

Deanna Shoss is the director of Marketing, Communications and Business Development for Jewish Child & Family Services.

Kimberley Rudd is owner of Rudd Resources, a marketing and communications consulting firm.

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