Everyone knows caring for children goes beyond the basics of food, clothing and shelter. Parents or another loving adults also love and care for children’s emotional needs and guide them to take healthy risks to stretch their comfort zone, develop healthy relationships, build life skills and so much more. Everyday is a new experience getting them ready for the ‘real world’ as their eighteenth birthday approaches.
Now imagine what it’s like to be a teen living in foster care, not having even one adult you can depend on, and your eighteenth birthday is approaching. It’s hard enough when you have a support system, but can you imagine doing it alone with only the few things you call your own and little to no money in your pocket? That’s downright scary for most. I don’t know about you, but with this perspective I hope you call and thank your mom or who ever took care of you, for everything they’ve done, I know I will. For as independent as I thought I was, I’m not sure how easy it would have been without her. She helped me when I had no credit to buy a car. She cosigned on my student loan. She fixed said car when it broke down. She taught me how to stretch money to make it last. She taught me how to garden. The list goes on. How about you?
According the Department of Health and Human Services there were an estimated 427,910 children in foster care in the US in late 2015*. Since little has been done to change the way foster care is ran, it is safe to assume the number is the same or even higher in 2018. That’s nearly half a million kids! Yes, some of them are reunited with their families or placed in loving homes, but those are not the kids I’m talking about. I’m talking about the 25% that age out with no one and nothing. The ones the government deems old enough to succeed on their own at the age of eighteen even though they have no caring adult to help them become self sufficient. This subjects them to higher chances of homelessness, prostitution, alcohol, and drug use. The truth is, the system doesn’t work. It ends up costing the government a lot more money not helping these kids get a good start on life.
A study issued in May 2013 by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative shows that, on average, for every young person who ages out of foster care, taxpayers and communities pay $300,000 in social costs like public assistance, incarceration, and lost wages to a community over that person’s lifetime**. Say what?! That’s a whole lot of dough. And the fact that most of this is preventable blows my mind.
So you are probably asking, “What can I do about it?" I’m glad you asked. One word: prevention, prevention, prevention. Okay I said it three times, but it’s worth repeating. We need to break the cycle. If you look at generations past in these young people aging out, their parents were most likely a product of the system as well and if not they were abused, abandoned, or neglected in some way which was pointing in the direction of not being able to care for their offspring. People repeat what they know and pass it down generation to generation with some never questioning why they do what they do. As we’ve heard before, we only know what we know, which will continue to happen until we are shown a better way and someone caring enough steps in to lead the way there.
That’s where Be the Magic comes in. We are here to be the support and loving adults these young women need as they are aging out from the ages of eighteen to twenty-one (and beyond). For the first three years the girls will have a safe and loving place to call home (at no cost) as they dive deep into inner healing, create a five year plan and begin following their dreams. They will have the opportunity to hear speakers of all kinds come in and talk about topics from overcoming adversity to how to cook a simple meal. They will be able to get an internship in the field they wish to pursue. There will be fundraisers throughout the year the girls will take part in to give them the opportunity to learn new things and have responsibility to something greater than themselves. They will take time to slow down, meditate, do some yoga, and figure out what they really want to do with their lives and the action steps to get there.There will also be a program to “Adopt a Mom” where girls can choose a “Mom” to be there for them for the big as well as the small things life brings. It will be a time to set roots and become secure about who they are and what they are capable of.
Then from the ages of twenty-two to twenty-five they will have support and community to back them as they take action from their Exit Plan they put together in a class years prior. They will have the opportunity to move into a tiny house or apartment with minimal payments, to purchase a car, have some cash in their pockets, as well as other things that will propel them into a healthy future.
While we live in a time where there is no shortage of intractable problems, changing the lives of girls “aging out” is different. It’s different because it is achievable. Not to mention all kids, no matter what, deserve a chance to thrive. And it’s not only good for them, but good for our society as a whole. Instead of these girls being a so called burden on society, they can, within a relatively short amount of time and limited resources, be transformed into a healthy contributing member of society. This is win-win no matter what way you look at it, leading to a better future for everyone and generations to come.
Check out Be the Magic’s website for more information and the many ways you can contribute to bettering the lives of these young women.
Be the Magic