During County Government Month in April, CSAC will be presenting blogs and short video features on 14 award-winning programs from 10 counties that demonstrate effective, original and cost-conscious ways counties are serving their citizens.

Hope is alive and well in Tuolumne County.  Tucked away on a semi-rural road a few miles outside of downtown Sonora is HOPE House – the “Housing and Opportunities for Emancipated Foster Youth home.  This county-owned residence provides emancipated youth with a place to learn about living independently without the worries and struggles of where they will sleep, or where their next meal will come from.

The energy in the house is vibrant. The residents truly care about each other. To them, it is more than a place to live; it is a home. At the same time, living there is no picnic. House rules are specific and strict.  The contract each resident signs with the County lays out specific guidelines, such as the need to either be working or going to school. But for the  emancipated foster youth residing there, the impact HOPE House is having on their lives is significant and “hopefully” long-lasting.

The alternatives for these young adults are ominous; when asked where they would be without HOPE House, the residents respond with phrases like “living in a tent” or “couch hopping.” In the case of one resident, her non-answer said everything. “I wouldn’t even want to say what I would be doing right now without HOPE House.”

This program is truly about hope. It’s about making a difference in the lives of young adults who have had a tough childhood. It’s about preparing them for the future with the hope they will become productive members of the community. It’s about giving them the tools to become independent so they don’t have to rely on the system.

Congratulations to Tuolumne County for showing that “county government works.” To review a short video of this program, click here.

County Government works, which is why Californians prefer to have programs and services managed and operated at the local level.  The county programs featured by CSAC during County Government Month are 2010 CSAC Challenge Award recipients. These awards recognize the innovative and creative spirit of California county governments as they find new and effective ways of providing programs and services to their citizens. The Call for Entries for the 2011 CSAC Challenge Awards is being distributed this month.

David Liebler is the Director of Public Affairs and Member Services for the California State Association of Counties. He can be reached at dliebler.at.counties.org.