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Monday, September 9, 2013

Ready to Go!

What happens when a young adult is ready to move out and find his or her own way? What did you do? Maybe you moved on to college after high school. Maybe you worked and went to school at night. Maybe you worked, traveled, lived with friends, did a year of service or followed your favorite band.

It’s no different when young adults age out of programs for foster youth. They take many different routes, too. Like young adults of all backgrounds, they sometimes just need a hand. On the Benevolent site, we’ve had many needs posted in which we hear from a high school grad who’s about to head off to college and needs a laptop, bus or train fare to get to college, or basic dorm room furnishings -- sheets, towels and the like. 

- Photo of Lemia -
My goal is to graduate college,
join the army, and be independent. 
I would like to attend a university
and work in the health field.
Today, though, we’ve got a need posted to the site that’s new for us. Lemia is ready to make the move from the group home she’s been living in with other older youth in the child welfare system. She’s getting her own place and she’ll live independently while she’s in school studying for a career in health care. On the Benevolent site, Lemia’s asking for help with the funds necessary to get herself situated in her new place.

Lemia doesn’t have a family basement or closet to raid for towels or kitchenware, or a folding table to borrow while she works her way towards more “real” furniture and slowly accumulates the things that make an apartment a home. I have no doubt she’ll make her place into a warm and peaceful home, but it’ll take some time and some help.

That’s where we come in. We can step in where family would have handed down the folding table from the hall closet, where the lamp no one was using would have been pulled from a box of old things and where a parent or uncle would have joined in a trip to the store and footed the bill for a few essential pieces.

We can do this for Lemia who has already beaten the odds simply by graduating high school. The stakes are even higher now. While she is one of the 70% of former foster youth with a desire to attend college, barely 5% wind up completing either a two-or four-year degree.

Some sobering facts: 50% of “aged out” foster youth are homeless within 18 months of emancipation, 25% are incarcerated within two years, 60% of these young women become mothers themselves within four years. Lemia’s got clear and impressive dreams and they bear no resemblance to those difficult statistics.

I spent a few years running group homes in Chicago and I can’t tell you how incredible each of those kids was. Every one of them had been through many foster care homes and each one had lived through situations that no child should experience. That’s where their similarities ended. They were as different from one another as kids should be and their gifts, strengths and dreams were inspiring.

I have no idea what Lemia’s seen or what she’s had to overcome to thrive. What I know is that she’s ready for what’s next and eager to get started. She’s generous enough to share her story with us, and she’s hoping we’ll believe in her. Let’s.

- megan kashner
  founder & ceo