Life After Foster Care: Provide Support For An Optimistic Future

posted in: Blog, News | 2

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

By Krystal Knapp

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.

 

IMG_2876
Residents of the Anchorage and Anchor Line outside the Anchorage.

“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

Become part of the CASA of CGS family!

 If you’re interested in learning more about CASA of CGS, email susanna.casaofcgs@gmail.com. Cumberland County ranked last place in Child Welfare in New Jersey. Let’s stand up for our children and do something about it! Visit www.wespeakupforchildren.org for more information and follow us on Facebook for daily updates and information.

 

 Do you know of a Community Superhero?

Help CASA of CGS recognize the effort put forth by them to improve our community! Email Jennifer Kaysen at Jennkaysen@gmail.com. Be sure to share this post with your family and friends on Facebook and Twitter to reach a bit further and find our Superheroes!

 

 

2 Responses

  1. Now is the time to promote positive change and awareness to foster care. Together we can change policy. If you are a former foster care recipient, please share your voice by taking my online survey at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FosterAlumni411

  2. I am searching out these sort of statistics. The reason is I was as foster child as well. I went through 31 so called permanent placements, several rest bit homes, 4 group homes, 3 institutions. That said my future was not looking good, but I had always wanted to have a good future. My final social worker told me when he dropped me off at the apartment they got me when I graduated high school with a 1.25 gpa that I would probably be in prison. Even though I was hardly in legal trouble. Graduating high school is amazing thing even with a low gpa when your moved so often, and have a lot of personal issues going on making it hard to concentrate. There are sometimes terrible people in the system as we all know. It is a fight through not having the understanding or knowledge of how to be successful with little or no support. No family to help hold you up, and discrimination is a problem as well. Many foster homes and people much like my final social worker who are rooting against you. Telling people detailed information or suggesting that I was a bad kid making it difficult to keep a job or get a good one. I went through a lot much like other foster children, and reacted accordingly. Imagine if you where kid napped, put into a strange home, and that continued to happen to you from 3 yrs old till you age out of the system at 18. With many homes neglecting you, or abusing you somehow, but some good and still taking away from those even. Many of them do not want to have your knowledge of abuse in the open, so they counter that with slandering you. Its hard but now 34 I am just about to finish college with a bachelors degree still having to fight constantly through the slander and discrimination. It took at least 12 years to get things figured out. Living on the street, having terrible relationship skills, no support, and many other social issues. It took a long time. I am still working at it as I have not landed that decent paying career yet, but I hope for that soon. Its unfortunate that it has to take so long, and it shouldn’t.

    My advice for those of you going through the same. Keep trying don’t give up. Its hard and many people with their ignorance will try to make it hard for you. Know that many people not always known to you are rooting for you, and I am one of them. Stay away from drugs and alcohol as much as possible it will make things more difficult it doesn’t help. Only temporary forgetfulness with more issues and less money when you wake out of intoxication. College is easy much easier than it was for us in high school. Just don’t try for a hard degree at first, and you can always change it. The money (thousands) is easily available for foster children (pel grants, interest free loans even with no credit or bad credit, ect). Find a good college advisor (a professor at the school in your interested degree) that does have an understanding of what you been through and wants to help. Don’t ever let someone make you feel less, because you know more about them and life than most, but don’t let your knowledge go to your head either. Always do the right thing for the right reason. Pay your bills before you do anything, and pay ahead if you have the money. In college we get huge refund checks I use it all to pay every bill in advance by 5-7 months, and plan to do that every time. The rest for what I want or need. It will be hard to pay back the money, but I will at least have a chance at a good paying career. Military is good but there are many other ways to do things if you get disqualified. Many of us get disqualified so don’t count on it when you age out of foster care. It took me 5 years of fighting temporary disqualification to get in the Marines. You don’t need a new car just a good one that you like, and easy to work on. Learn to work on things yourself is saves money and mechanic shops are usually corrupt and expensive. You tube helps with this. Find fun healthy things to do (snowboarding, skiing, fishing, some gaming not all day gaming lol, ect). Look at things not ideally, but how it really is and build from that on.

    I wish I could put down more but there is a lot to this. Someday I will write a book I hope that will help, but I need to get the final part of my life in order (career and success). I’m on the way to that though it seems. Good luck and Im rooting for you always 🙂

Leave a Reply