When Girls Age out of Foster Care
When Girls Age out of Foster Care
Have you ever considered what happens to children who age out of the foster care system? Most civic-minded citizens know about the overwhelming need for foster homes in our community. There were almost 5,000 children in the Arkansas foster care system last year, but only 1,600 open foster homes. Although a lot of positive attention has been given to the foster care issue, many people have never considered the children who move through the foster care system, turning 18 without ever being adopted.
Approximately 200 young people age out of foster care in Arkansas every year. These young adults were not adopted and usually have no support system, and few are prepared to manage life on their own. Girls in this population are particularly at risk for poverty, substance abuse, unplanned pregnancy, domestic violence, and sex trafficking.
Help through Saving Grace
One local ministry offers hope and safety to this vulnerable group of young women. Saving Grace is a safe haven for women ages eighteen to twenty-five, offering practical and emotional support to prepare these girls to live on their own in the real world. Not all Saving Grace residents have aged out of foster care, but a large percentage have spent at least some time in the system. A girl must apply to live at the Saving Grace home, which is located in central Rogers. Once accepted each girl is given a furnished and decorated room of her own and access to a communal kitchen and laundry facilities. The home also provides a large living area with a TV and board games as well as a separate school/craft room with computer access.
The girls of Saving Grace are given life skills training in practical areas such as budgeting, meal planning, boundary setting, and healthy relationships. They are expected and encouraged to find jobs and/or continue their educations in order to become financially self-sufficient and responsible. Community service is also a part of living at Saving Grace, as the staff encourages the girls to get connected to the community around them.
One of the most critical components of Saving Grace's ministry is their mentorship program. Each girl is matched with three mentors who are available to her for advice, support, and encouragement. The mentors meet with their girls regularly, have the girls over for dinner, serve in the community together, and take the girls with them on family outings. These mentors serve as a positive influence and model for what normal, healthy relationships should look like.
The girls in the Saving Grace program are given all the tools they need to overcome the challenges and hurts from their pasts and move forward into a bright and hopeful future. Saving Grace's goal is for each girl to become an interdependent part of the outer community. Their website, www.savinggracenwa.org is full of success stories. Lovelle, who struggled for most of her adolescence just to survive, is thriving and flourishing having just run a half-marathon and is in school to become a human-service professional. Jonah overcame unbelievable pain and abuse and is now ministering as an RA in a program very similar to Saving Grace while she attends U of A Little Rock majoring in Deaf Interpretation and Deaf Education. It seems that in addition to helping these girls become fully functioning and self-sufficient, Saving Grace has also encouraged the desire for program graduates to give back in a multitude of ways.
How you can Help
Saving Grace is a non-profit organization that depends on donations and volunteers to keep its doors open. If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer, tutor, or mentor please go to www.savinggracenwa.org for more information. Another way to support this wonderful ministry is by attending their annual Butterflies and Blooms fundraising luncheon coming up on April 20th from 11:30-1:00 at the John Q. Hammons Center. The tickets are free but seating is limited. Contact Jaclyn at (479) 636-1133 to reserve a seat.
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