May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize the challenges that children and youth in foster care face, along with roles of foster parents. Unfortunately, the 25,000 youth that age out of the foster care system in the United States each year continue to face daunting challenges; many reach their 18 birthdays alone, under-skilled, and unprepared for independent adult life.
To address this problem, PRIDE Industries Youth Services Program helps youth transitioning out of foster care develop a path to employment while locating resources to improve their lives. The program is funded by generous donations and grants to PRIDE’s Development and Donor Services. Charmaine has been a participant in the Youth Services Program since 2017; she has graciously shared her experiences with us.
Supporting Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care
Charmaine is a young woman who has displayed incredible resilience throughout her life. At a young age, she entered foster care and stayed until she aged out at 18 as a young adult. With no financial and emotional support, Charmaine became homeless, living in her car until it was towed and occasionally sleeping on friends’ couches. Facing an arrest warrant for missing a court date, she was unable to get a job.
Seeking a fresh start, Charmaine relocated to the Sacramento, CA area and sought help from Grace City, a youth support center, in 2017. They provided her with a Youth Advocate to help connect her with resources, including a referral to PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program, which offers support and job assistance to teenagers transitioning out of foster care.
PRIDE Job Developer/Transitional Coordinator, Danielle Anderson, began meeting with Charmaine once a week. PRIDE’s Job Developers act as mentors to participants in the Youth Services Program, helping them learn life skills while providing ongoing support.
Overcoming Common “Aging Out” Obstacles
One of the first things Charmaine and her mentor did was talk through the challenges she was facing, all of which are common issues for youth aging out of the foster care system.
“Charmaine was frustrated and stressed due to the multiple major obstacles that she faced, including the lack of a job, housing, and transportation,” said Danielle. “By helping her to focus on overcoming one challenge at a time, Charmaine started to become more confident that she could move ahead, especially now that she had a support team.”
To transition Charmaine into her job search, Danielle helped her create a resume, cover letters, and fill out multiple job applications. Despite their hard work, they could not find her a position. Danielle then connected Charmaine with a paid internship at Grace City in January 2018 to perform receptionist duties. With her own experience in the foster care system, Charmaine was able to connect well with other at-risk youth, working a total of 305 hours. After her internship ended, Charmaine has continued to give back by volunteering at the center.
“From the beginning of her internship, it was incredible how Charmaine’s drive and self-confidence grew,” said Danielle.
With a new source of income, Charmaine was able to start purchasing items for her new apartment. PRIDE Industries’ support also included providing her with funds to obtain a life-scan background check, bus passes, and bedding. Once she became of age, Danielle helped her sign up for General Assistance.
Deciding to take a significant new step after her internship ended, Charmaine signed up for Guard Card courses (licensed by the CA Bureau of Security and Investigative Services) to become a Security Guard. With financial support from the CA Department of Rehabilitation, she attended and passed the required courses and became a licensed Security Guard in July 2018.
Success After Aging Out
Unfortunately, the job search continued to remain elusive because of Charmaine’s outstanding warrant. To finally overcome this significant obstacle, she decided that it was time to report to the court. Once she was released from serving time, Charmaine immediately called Danielle for help. “I felt like I hit rock bottom,” said Charmaine.
Danielle and Charmaine developed a plan to get her back on track, including signing up for classes to help get her record expunged and communicating with her probation officer. Their persistence worked, and soon Charmaine had two interviews with security companies and was offered a full-time position in January 2019. “Charmaine has been enjoying her new job,” said Danielle. “Her manager has told me that she has been a great addition to their team, and she has been working there now for almost half a year.”
To prepare Charmaine for her new job, Danielle took her shopping for clothes to keep her warm while working outside, including earmuffs, layering clothing, thick socks, boots, gloves, and a belt.
Now that she has achieved this crucial step to building a career, Charmaine plans to become a probation officer.
“I am proud that I have completely turned my life around and hope to help other foster youth like myself in the future,” said Charmaine.
Danielle and others at PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program were thrilled to see Charmaine’s success. “The smile on Charmaine’s face has made me realize how much her life has positively changed,” said Danielle.
Transitioning out of foster care is difficult for youth, but PRIDE Industries is there to provide hope, resources, and support, every step of the way.
Generous donations to PRIDE’s Development and Donor Services funded the following items for Charmaine’s journey to employment:
- paid internship
- on-going support from a job developer
- work clothes
- bus pass
- household items
- a start to a better life