From the desk of Kim Golter
The cornerstone of Jeremiah's Promise has been to prepare former foster youth for a future of hope and promise as we cultivate youth empowerment, accomplish academic and career goals and achieve emotional healing and healthy coping skills in young adults who have aged out of foster care at 18 or 19 years old.
Now that these youth soon will be allowed to remain in foster care until 21 years old, we believe the need is more crucial than ever to pair youth who are preparing for emancipation with caring adults who speak words of encouragement, wisdom and guidance to a population who often are forgotten behind the cold, often hostile, walls of group homes. Many of these youth fail to thrive, not because of a lack of housing options, but because many of them say they do not feel loved, or a sense of purpose or belonging. As a result, slightly more than three out of ten female foster youth will be pregnant or parenting by age 19. One in five youth will be incarcerated at some point in their lives. Four out of ten foster youth will fail to graduate high school. With few people to encourage and guide them, all too often, their dreams wither and with them any hope of becoming much more than a foster care statistic.
Our high hopes for making an impact in the lives of these young adults have been fulfilled. We developed our program feeling the urgency to serve this neglected group of young people who are without the knowledge, skills or means to succeed alone in our society. As a result of the Jeremiah’s Promise program, 95 percent of the 40 young women who have participated, have earned high school diplomas. College enrollment of those who have been in JP has climbed to 90 percent. About 85 percent have completed two or more years of college. One is in a Masters Degree program. Ninety-seven percent are employed. Eighty-eight percent exited our program without having to lean on government support after leaving. And 98 percent formed at least one long-term mentoring relationship with a supportive adult while in our program.
Contrast those numbers with those of the foster care system where many young people lose any belief that they were ever a valued part of a family or community, thus the dismal results of those who never find a person who believes in them and encourages them toward confidence and independence. As we move toward an expanded mentoring program combined with the essential services of educational support, career guidance and life skills enrichment, we hope to reignite the hope of older foster youth who have been crippled emotionally and academically by their traumatic pasts.
Under our care, foster youth – particularly those 17 to 24 – are a valued part of Jeremiah's Promise. They belong to our community. We belong to them.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)