Traverse: Moving Foster Youth Forward
Organized by: Rachel Pruess
Did you know that for many youth in foster care, once they turn 18 they age out of the state system with no family or support and are forced to navigate the world on their own? Were you ready to be on your own at that point in your life?
I have worked in child welfare for over ten years and my eyes have been clearly opened to the broken foster care system. It is my daily life. Once you see it you can not just ignore it. My perspective has changed even more since becoming a foster parent, almost two years ago and seeing first hand the turmoils of the system.
The turmoil continues to occur, in our own backyards, but most American’s are unaware of how severe the situation has become. The system removes kids from their homes to protect them from abuse, but often fails to provide the needed support to return kids home or place them in permanent homes. This can result in ongoing trauma:
- More than one in five will become homeless after age 18
- Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent of all 19 year olds)
- 71 percent of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system
- At the age of 24, only half are employed
- Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent of all 25 year olds
- One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system (http://www.jimcaseyyouth.org/about/aging-out)
Creative changes are needed. Traditional methods and therapies are not working for many of these kids.
Traverse plans to help foster youth move forward on their journey, utilizing travel and service learning trips. This will give them diverse opportunities to immerse in different cultures and learn from other’s life experiences. They will start to discover they are not physically or emotionally “stuck” and they can have an impact in their own life and for the world.
Fundraising: Youth will be taught how to do their own fundraising/budgeting by exploring different business opportunities to assist in funding their travel opportunities. This will teach them life skills, as well.
Postcards: While traveling to each location and building relationships, with those they immerse with, youth will write and send postcards “home” sharing of their experiences.
Passport stamps: Youth will collect stamps as they successfully Traverse to each destination.
Family Finding: The Family Finding model seeks to build or maintain the youth’s Lifetime Family Support network for all youth who are disconnected or at risk of disconnection through placement outside of their home and community. The process identifies relatives and other supportive adults, estranged from or unknown to the child, especially those who are willing to become permanent connections for him/her.
Your support is needed to build the program and begin funding the trips.