INDIANAPOLIS – Foster youth from around the state gathered Thursday for some serious talks about what happens after they reach an age where they have to leave the system.
The goal was to teach the children who “age out” of the system how to survive on their own once they leave foster care.
Justin Kidder, a former foster child, spent a few years in the foster care system. While he was in the system, he said, “I felt lonely. I felt like I wasn’t normal, like I was out in the world by myself. That I was really honestly gonna fail in life.”
He has been on his own since he was 18.
“Man, I was scared!” Kidder recalled. “I didn’t know if I was gonna make it.”
He said the Indiana Department of Child Services Collaborative Care program helped him get his first apartment.
Now, he is helping other foster care youth.
“Failure is not an option,” Kidder said. “Use the resources around you. Do not give up.”
More than 100 young people Thursday had access to financial, job and insurance help. They also learned how to apply for college.
Lois Dunlop, the community education representative for CareSource, said, “They deserve it. They need it. We’re here for them.”
Brent Kent, CEO of Indiana Connected by 25, said, “Hopefully, we’ve given them the tools so they can start making their transition plan. Where are they going next? Is it college? Is it a workforce program? We work with the Department of Child Services to fund that. Up to $5,000 a year toward any costs related to two-year degrees, four-year degrees, a certificate training program.”
Kent’s organization, a nonprofit, helps youth who “age-out” of foster care without permanent families. “We’re helping them, putting them in financial-literacy training. At the end of that, we open a bank account with them and we match their savings dollar for dollar up to $3,500 toward the purchase of a car, their first house, their first apartment, health care, college tuition, you name it.”
It’s an experience Sierra Labate, from the Evansville area, lived through. She spent a decade in foster care, in and out of five homes.
Labate said, “It’s so important. It’s really important for the youth to know their voice is being heard now.”