Throughout the world, there are hundreds of thousands of orphan youth. Whether orphaned by poverty, war, natural disaster, or abandonment, these youth often live in the tunneled domain of state institutions, where they experience a stultified childhood apart from society at large. State institutions are often overcrowded and stimulating programs to foster healthy life styles or job skills are frequently pushed aside to ensure that each child receives minimal shelter, food, and an abbreviated version of public education. Most of them have nowhere to turn when they are ‘released’ at age 18. Unprepared for life outside the institution, many end up on the streets.


Goal: Provide children (12yrs+) with the knowledge, skills, and support to transition from foster care to independent living.


  • Assessment model for collecting comprehensive data regarding the target population, available options for services and support, and community conditions and capacities
  • A core curriculum targeting orphaned youths that is adaptable to various cultural contexts
  • Training model to build local capacity to support youth exiting the foster care system
  • Model for establishing collaborative community networks for the purpose of monitoring the safety and well being of youth exiting foster care

Project Prepare! Serbia

In the summer of 2005, IOFA partnered with the DC-based FAIR Fund and the Serbian youth organization, the Center for Youth Integration, to conduct in-depth interviews of orphan youth to learn about their experiences in orphan care and their prospects for once they left care. Finding that orphans leaving care face heightened risks of sexual exploitation, homelessness, and human trafficking, the partners developed Smooth Flight, a training curriculum to prevent bad outcomes for transitioning youth.

Project Prepare! Bosnia-Herzegovina

In partnership with the Fair Fund and the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, IOFA replicated the project piloted in Serbia, a curriculum for state institutions to inform youth about trafficking in persons, safe migration, and to teach them life skills.  After assessments to learn about the youths’ experience and need, a curriculum was created, capacity building trainings were done, and job skills and placement programs were implemented and evaluated.

Project Prepare! Ethiopia

In 2011 IOFA partnered with Ethiopian Orphan Relief (EOR) and their partner organizations and orphanages, AHOPE and Children’s Heaven, to duplicate the projects done in Serbian and Bosnia-Herzegovina. This project utilized interviews and focus groups to assess what youth in Ethiopia experience, created curriculum to confront challenges faced by those youth, trained qualified professions in the community to serve as advocates for the youth, and created a community network for resources and support within the community.

The Transition Initiative! Cambodia

In partnership with ICC-Project Sky in 2011, IOFA expanded Project Prepare! to create The Transition Initiative, a five-part project that worked to create opportunities for orphaned youth to integrate into their community.  The Initiative included Project Prepare! curriculum that was altered and implemented based on evaluations of the youth being served, a Transition Center that acts as a drop-in safe-space for youth in need of services, a local and worldwide network was coordinated for capacity building and best practice sharing, and evaluations done with help from the youth.

Past Projects

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