How Opportunity Passport gives kids a leg up

Opportunity Passport, launched by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, provides personal finance classes for young people who were in foster care after the age of 14.

Total Assets Purchased with Matched Funds in the Opportunity Passport program, as of October 2011

Participants also receive a personal bank account and an individual development account (IDA). Money saved through Opportunity Passport is matched dollar-for-dollar in their IDA, up to $1,000 each year. The money can be used for approved assets, such as education expenses, housing costs, and health care. Participants can remain in the program until age 24.

Since Opportunity Passport launched in 2002, it has helped nearly 5,000 young people like Eddye collectively save more than $6 million.

Christine, who's a consultant with the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative and an Opportunity Passport trainer, says the key to the program's success has been partnerships and involvement from participants like Eddye, who's now serving as president of her state's youth advisory board. “The solution has to be bigger than child welfare,” says Christine. “Child welfare can't do it all, even though we expect them to do it all.”

Christine says their next goal is to expand from 15 states to 25 states, so that “half the country is implementing the Opportunity Passport model”.

Considering that even top-rated high schools don't provide a personal finance education, it's pretty amazing that this program is successfully providing one for kids in foster care. If you want to learn more about the program or how you can help, check out the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative website.