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Sept. 20, 2020

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YWCA Program for Foster Youth Guides Them to Adulthood

Independent Living Skills assists former foster children so they do not fall through the cracks.

By , Columbian staff writer

Some children in Clark County who are removed from their homes by the courts quickly understand the meaning of falling through the cracks. Fortunately for many of them, YWCA Clark County offers a program Independent Living Skills designed to fill in those cracks.

Take Sara. Due to neglect, she was placed in foster care at age 3. By the time she was 12, she had been in four different foster homes. She had fallen behind in school, had trouble making friends, and was already being treated for anxiety and depression.

Once she started high school, her situation worsened. Her behavior resulted in expulsion from school and more bouncing among foster families.

When, at 18, she aged out of the foster system, she found herself facing homelessness. She was about to fall through the most dangerous crack in the system when another former foster child told her about YWCA’s Independent Living Skills (ILS) program.

ILS helps foster youth age 15-23 successfully transition from state-supported care to independent living. ILS staff provide these at-risk youth with the tools they need to succeed. Education, resources, and advocacy focused on housing, education and employment empower program participants to define and achieve goals. Financial assistance is available for participants 18 and older so they can find safe, clean housing and can afford the food and clothes the rest of us take for granted.

Kit Kuran, ILS program manager, says Sara’s determination to succeed on her own after foster care served as a strong starting point for her transition into independent living. Kit and Sara together discussed job hunting, how to budget Sara’s income from her job, and how to set aside some in savings.

“She has been very open to learning how to make decisions that will serve her basic needs while preparing her for a better life,” Kuran says. “It’s been powerful to work with someone so driven to succeed.”

2020 began auspiciously for Sara. With money saved from her retail job, she found an apartment. But then COVID wiped out her job, and her unemployment benefits were slow to arrive.

“She went four months without an unemployment check. ILS kind of helped float her during that time. We paid for her phone bill and made sure she had groceries. Then her unemployment benefit arrived in a lump sum in August.”

With other youth, Kuran might have worried that they would run through a cash stash quickly with little to show for it. Not Sara.

“She used the money to get a car. She knew owning a good car would make job-hunting, and keeping a job, a lot easier. It was such a mature decision. We feel good about her future.”

Sara still has a long way to go. She has no family to fall back on, and she does not yet have the educational background she’ll need to fulfill her professional ambitions. But, Kuran says, her independent spirit will serve her well.

“Once she lands that new job, she can begin saving so she can pursue her next
dream: a college degree,” Kuran says.

With her own determination to make good supported by programs like YWCA’s Independent Living Skills, Kuran believes Sara will avoid the major cracks that could have brought her down just a few short years ago.

“It’s pretty amazing what these young people can accomplish when they get the
support they need to succeed,” Kuran says. “Making the transition into adult living is difficult for any young person. But the youth in our program are particularly vulnerable. Many of them have lived in multiple foster homes, have moved around from school to school, and have not known much stability. That stability and consistency are what we can provide.”

Donors help to provide that level of support. Sara already has a lot on her plate as she learns to manage her own apartment, keep her car in good shape, budget her money, and master all the other daily life skills she will need to excel. ILS will be there if she needs advice on job-hunting or maintaining her apartment. Thanks to our donors, ILS can help Sara pay the rent, fill up her gas tank, or pay her phone bill if she sometimes comes up short.

That is how a compassionate community supports young people who might otherwise fall through the cracks–and never get back on their feet.

You can learn more about how ILS helps youth like Sara by registering for YWCA’s September 24th Empower Luncheon at ywcaclarkcounty.org

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Columbian staff writer
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