Life After Foster Care
In today's economy, it's hard for young people to find work. It's much harder for foster children who have to make it on their own when they reach 21. Up to two-thirds don't graduate from high school or get a GED. A program is stepping in for those who don't have parents and seeing successful results.
(Locator: St. Louis, Missouri)
Julie Reed: "There are more than 10,000 youth in foster care in the state of Missouri. There are 2,200 youth in foster care in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Less than 50% of youth in foster care will end up with a high school diploma or GED."
Patrice Jones, Former Foster Child: "My name is Patrice Jones and I've been in foster care since I was born. The first two years of my life, I spent bouncing around from facility to facility. At the age of two, I was adopted. I stayed there from 2 to 14. During that time I was abused, physically abused. She bought an extension cord just to beat me with it, and she choked me with it from behind. With the plastic part she hit me on the head with it, like she was just striking me with it. And I just got up and ran. I had no shoes on. The next year of my life just went from facility to facility."
Julie Reed, Development Officer, Epworth Children and Family Services: "The numbers for youth in foster care are terrible. Almost half will end up homeless, and 60% of girls in foster care will have a child before they're age 19. That's an epidemic in our country."
"My name is Julie Reed. I'm the chief development officer at Epworth Children and Family Services. We were funded in 1864 by The United Methodist Church."
Patrice Jones: "The first day I came to Epworth, I was 16. I got a call from one of the workers at Epworth explaining to me about the aging out program."
Julie Reed: "Aging out is a groundbreaking program of Epworth. We help youth with preparing to age out of the system, preparing to be independent, getting a high school diploma, getting a college degree and being able to move forward."
Patrice Jones: "One of the things, when I first came into their program, I was very angry, very upset."
Julie Reed: "It's very difficult for youth to overcome those barriers and actually trust people. And the people they were supposed to trust the most, their parents, have let them down. The program was created with youth. The program is staffed by former foster youth."
Mary Saunders, Peer Counselor, Epworth Children and Family Services: "It makes a huge difference with all of them to say, "Yeah I did that. I went through that. This is what I did and I know you can do something too.'"
Patrice Jones: "It just gives you inspiration and hope that it if they can make it through, I can make it through."
Julie Reed: "We teach kids how to stand up for themselves, not throwing up your hands and being frustrated and running away from the system. That's how youth end up homeless, and we can't have that. So how do we change it? We teach youth how to interact within the system and correct the things that need to be corrected."
Patrice Jones: "And I really thank them for the help like my senior year in high school. When I graduated, I had a cap and gown, all that. They gave me resources that would pay for that and fund that. They gave me resources so I could take the ACT for free. They gave me resources in scholarships specifically for kids and youth in foster care. They also took me on college tours so I could see different campuses."
Julie Reed: "What we do is empower youth to affect change within themselves and within each other."
Patrice Jones: "Right now, I am a full-time student at the University of Missouri St Louis. I am currently in my sophomore year. I am studying biology."
Julie Reed: "Not only is she doing really well for herself, not only did that peer advisor help her get to the next level, now Patrice is picking up the ball and she's running with it."
Patrice Jones: "My goal is to change the foster care system. To take everything that I went through and help somebody with it. If I could assist another kid in foster care or later on in life adopting a child, then that's what I want to do. I want to make someone's life easier."
You can learn more about Epworth Children and Family Services by contacting 314-961-5718.
Posted: May 9, 2011