By Courtney Lake, Development and Communications Coordinator

Aging out of foster care is a terrifying reality that more than 20,000 youth face every year. Not only do these 18 year-olds lack a family, many enter the real world without the skills to make it on their own, and worse, without a single connection to look to for guidance and support.

In 2015, NPR shared Jasmine Uqdah’s story. A bright teen, Jasmine aged out of the foster care system with a plan. She was accepted to college and was motivated to succeed. But like so many youth who age out of the foster care system, the odds were stacked against her and there was no one around to guide her.

“Uqdah says that trying to balance school, a part-time job, money, and life all on her own became overwhelming. So she dropped out after two semesters — already more than $15,000 in debt — and took a second job as a meat slicer at a Detroit market.”

No young person should have to take on the world alone like Jasmine did. In her own words:

“Every 18- and 19-year-old thinks they’re ready, but you’re not. You’re not ready for shutoff notices. You’re not ready for eviction notices. You’re not ready for car repossessions.”

The Adoption Exchange Solution

At The Adoption Exchange, we actively work to provide youth with as many opportunities to make a connection as possible. Whether it’s an adoptive family, a mentor, or a community partner, having a connection with an adult will dramatically improve the outcomes for a teen in foster care.

In October 2016, The Adoption Exchange kicked off CHOICE,  a new weekend hosting program, to help create connections for youth in foster care.  The goal of CHOICE is to provide fun, no-pressure, age-appropriate activities in which youth and adults can engage with one another to build connections.

The first CHOICE event was a fun-filled Fall Festival! Seven youth, ages 13-16, participated and left smiling with carved pumpkins, DIY masks, and cookies in hand. Sixteen adults interested in becoming mentors were there to cheer on the youth and play along. Afterward, a Permanency Manager at Adams County had this to say:

“Thanks for the awesome planning, coordinating, and making the event really cool for us and our youth.  Please thank your team as they created a welcoming environment for all of us, and especially our youth!” 

We are so excited to be implementing this program in Colorado and to help create the lifelong connections that can help transform a child from a statistic to a success story.

Get Involved

If you live in Colorado and are interested in participating in the CHOICE program, be sure to register for an upcoming CHOICE Orientation Session. You must attend an orientation in order to be eligible to attend the next CHOICE event, a Bowling Bash, on February 18th, 2017.

If you are outside of Colorado, you can meet children waiting in foster care by visiting The Adoption Exchange’s Children’s Gallery or contact a local office to learn more about supporting foster youth in your community.

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