Transitional Living Programs are intended for foster youth, typically aged 16 or 17 and over; whose permanency goal is not reunification, adoption or legal guardianship. Adolescence is a time of testing, not only one’s abilities but others’ abilities as well. It is a time of trial and error. Our out-of-home care youth need to be allowed to make mistakes and to learn by natural consequences. However, without a connection to permanent family, without a sense of belonging, these youth often find themselves in the throws of homelessness, addiction, and hopelessness. Approximately 23,000 youth age out of the foster system each year in the United States. Not only are these youth learning to be an adult without the safety net of a caring family, they are often coping with the prior trauma of abuse and neglect. After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless. Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life. The dire social and economic effects of the aging out process, whether we realize it or not, touch each one of us. Statistically speaking, a large number of our youth who “age out” of the foster care system will experience homelessness, high levels of addiction, be under employed and less than 3% will ever graduate with a college degree. This speaks to the lack of healthy support systems available to our older foster youth as they enter adulthood. This trauma informed program is designed to provide the needed supports to help our foster youth transition successfully into adulthood and be a healthy addition to our community, instead of a deficit.
Our primary goal is to change lives and instill a sense of belonging to those aging out of the foster system. We strive to change the statistics. We are partnering with a local agency. They are donating the use of 3 cabins on a private portion of their property. We will launch our transitional living program, Dogwood Haven, once we have completed the necessary renovations to the cabins. Each cabin home will be able to house 2 youth, either transitioning out of care, or emergency cases where the youth is no longer in care but is homeless and without help or resources. We will have a 6-12 month program where the youth develop their adult skills, learn about the local resources available, have job training, financial wellness classes, and learn to apply for college, if they wish to pursue that direction. As they complete the program, Dogwood Ranch will wrap around them, offering a sense of belonging and family support that will last a lifetime. We are not just offering housing and classes, we are providing the Road Home. The youth coming through our program will always have someone they can call, someone to listen, and someone to believe in them.
We will be serving foster youth in State's custody with a goal of independent or transitional living. We will work with the case managers and Family Support Team, to provide a wrap around approach, easing these children into adulthood in a positive and supportive manner. The second population we will serve is an innovative aspect of our program. We will serve youth and young adults that have already aged out and are no longer in care, but have found themselves in an emergency situation, such as homelessness. We refuse to give up on those that are fighting to survive out of the foster system, with nowhere to belong. These children, who are now young adults, not only do not have the life skills needed to be a successful adult, they seldom have anyone to call when a problem arises. There is no dad to come help fix a flat tire. There is no "mom's house" to raid the fridge or do a load of laundry. These young adults are very often one small issue from disaster. For example, one of our youth, living on her own, working a full time job, blew a tire while driving, causing damage to the wheel itself. She could not afford the repairs (and although insurance would have covered the damage the cost was less than her deductible). Without the support of Dogwood Ranch, she would have lost her job, as there is no public transportation in Ozark, leading to failure. There currently are no programs offering a housing program for those that are no longer in state custody.
Please Note: Foster Youth statistics acquired from National Foster Youth Institute and the Missouri Children's Division's latest published report.