I posted a blog at the beginning of the month focusing on life after foster care. The statistics are alarming and will not change unless we step in and help. Children are not placed in foster care by choice and they need every bit of support and educational resources we can possibly provide for them. Being a foster child doesn’t make a child different – it makes them special. Because of the things they’ve endured, the knowledge they will carry with them and spread to others is priceless. As a community, we must do as much as we can to help them utilize their talents, gifts, skills, knowledge, and strength.
Looking back at the other blog, I felt this piece was worth repeating:
When a child ‘ages out’ of the system, they are emancipated and are free to the adult world like any other individual – completely responsible for their own welfare and well-being.
But, what happens to foster youth who emancipate (age out) from the system?
- 65% emancipate without a place to live
- Less than 3% go to college
- 51% are unemployed
- Emancipated females are 4 times more likely to receive public assistance than the general population
- In any given year, foster children compromise less than 0.3% of the state’s population, and yet 40% of persons living in homeless shelters are former foster children. A similarly disproportionate percentage of the nation’s prison population is comprised of former foster youth
*Statistics from Childrenunitingnations.org
Here’s another fantastic example of a program implemented to provide guidance, assistance and support to youth in the foster care system.
More Than Just a Shelter: Anchor House Teaches Teens and Young Adults Life Skills
Terrance Alford didn’t know where to turn after his grandmother passed away.
The teen had been living with her since he was 15, and after her death he had nowhere to go.
“I didn’t know where I would stay from day to day,” he said. “I crashed at friends’ houses and sometimes slept over at my sister’s or aunt’s. I moved from place to place all the time.”
Alford was homeless for five months. His grades slipped because of the situation, and it looked like he might not graduate from Trenton Central High. Then the resourceful teen searched the Web and learned about Anchor House, the Trenton-based shelter for abused and neglected kids and runaways.
Anchor House runs two programs, the Anchorage and Anchor Line, for teens and young adults that provide them with shelter and teach them to live independently.
With the support of Anchor House, Alford boosted his grades and graduated from high school on time last month. The staff at Anchor House also made sure he enjoyed the end of high school like other teens do, celebrating his graduation and helping him go the the prom, tuxedo and all. He will attend Mercer County Community College in the fall.
“Living here at the Anchorage for the last three months has changed my personality,” he said. “I used to be mad a lot. I let stuff get to me. I’m not the same person I used to be. A lot of things happened to me here to help me change.”
Micheldy Pierre, 21, was attending Mercer County Community College before she came to Anchor House. She was living in a home where there was domestic violence. She was having trouble concentrating on school work, and constantly felt stressed at home.
Then a friend from school told her about Anchor House. She lived at the Anchorage for a year and a half before moving to the Anchor Line apartment program in September.
“Anchor House taught me how to be independent, and I learned life skills like how to budget my money,” she said. “I was shy when I came here, but I learned to open up to people.”
Pierre attended school while holding down a full-time job at St. Francis Medical Center, and this fall she will transfer to Rutgers University to study biology. She wants to become a physical therapist.
“I love science, especially anatomy and physiology,” she said. “I can’t wait to go to college in the fall.”
Ashanieyan McClinton was placed in her first foster home when she was three years old. She lived in more than a dozen foster homes before she was sent to Anchor House. Her last foster parent exploited her, demanding that she turn over her monthly allowance from the state each month.
In October of 2011, the state Department of Youth and Family Services referred her to Anchor House.
“It was the worst day of my life,” McClinton said. “I didn’t want to be here. The first two weeks were tough, then I got used to it.”
At first Anchor House seemed like jail, she said.
“I was so used to being on my own, doing what I wanted, when I wanted, going in and out of the house when I wanted, without anyone caring what I did. It felt like a loss of freedom at first.”
McClinton enrolled in college and got a job working at McDonalds. Now she lives in the Anchor apartment program and understands that the rules are meant to help the residents.
“Anchor House is a great program. It makes you a better person, and I’d definitely recommend it, ” she said.
Michael Woods, who came to Anchor House in July 0f 2011 at the age of 19 after his mother kicked him out of the house.
“You might think you know how to live on your own, but then you learn there is a whole bunch of stuff you don’t know,” he said. “There are a lot of rules, a lot of things you have to do here like chores, but they teach you how be self-sufficient. You are living with people in the same situation as you are, so there are a lot of disagreements sometimes.”
One of the biggest struggles for Woods and others is finding work. Pierre was laid off from St. Francis Medical Center, and others have had difficulty getting jobs.
Woods began working at Homefront when he was 14, has been a part of the Americorps program, and has worked at the Trenton YMCA. He loves tutoring kids, and likes any kind of work in the social work field helping others.
“I’d love to find work again,” he said. “It’s tough.”
Even after young people leave the program, they still return to Anchor House to check in, receive support, and see old friends.
Jennifer Margentino lived at the Anchorage back in 2007 when she was 19. She had been living with the father of her child, but the relationship didn’t work out. After her mother died suddenly, the Anchor House staff rallied to support her, and the staff and residents all attended her mother’s funeral. Two weeks later her grandmother died, and they supported her through that too.
Now she lives on her own with her son, and has an office job in Pennsylvania. She stops in for a visit to the Anchorage on a regular basis.
“Even after I left they helped me a lot. I could come over and talk about issues I was going through,” she said. “They’ve always been there for me.”
From Planet Princeton
More about the Anchor House
Because of programs the Anchor House provides and others similar to them, the children of our future have a real opportunity to become everything they are capable of. Their life experiences should push them forward, not hold them back.
Thoughts, comments, questions? Please email me, Jennkaysen@gmail.com
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