In 2014, a group of five women met in a TKTK in Green Bay. We were all involved with the foster care system in some way — foster parents, therapists, and social workers — and we all believed we were witnessing a crisis.
When youth age out of foster care at age 18, many don’t have a home to return to. In looking for a place to sleep, they turn to homeless shelters, couchsurfing, or other dangerous situations.
The resulting statistics, according to the National Conference of State Legislators, are abysmal. When it comes to youth aging out of foster care:
- More than 20% will become homeless after age 18.
- Only 58% will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87% nationwide).
- More than 70% of young women will be pregnant by 21, facing even higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system.
- Only half will be employed by age 24, and fewer than 2% will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28% nationwide).
- One quarter (25%) will be involved in the justice system within two years.
To us, these were more than just numbers; these were the risks facing kids we knew and cared for. So we knew we had to act fast.
Understanding the unique challenges faced by foster youth, we began designing a program that included safe housing, a positive atmosphere, and individualized coaching and support. We sought to create a homelike environment where youth could practice and grow — an experience that would serve as training wheels for life as an adult.
Within a year, we had made that dream into a reality. Within five years, we’d housed 50 young adults, changing their trajectories forever.