Lots of exciting things have been happening at BeREAL in New Orleans! Christie Kieschnick, director of education and career development, works with transition coach Michael Patrick and a dedicated team of volunteers to provide mentoring, stability, and guidance to foster youth on the cusp of independence, as they approach the critical age of 18. Some high points:
- BeREAL staff have settled in to their new office at 6305 Elysian Fields, and continue to be centrally located for foster youth who rely on public transit.
- ALL of BeREAL’s eligible youth in high school got Cs and better on their Fall 2013 report cards.
- Darrell, the first recipient of BeREAL’s housing initiative—for carefully selected teens 18 and over who haven’t finished high school—has settled into an apartment and some huge honors have come his way recently. After undergoing a rigorous application process, Darrell received a full-tuition POSSE scholarship to Bard College in New York.
- Word about BeREAL’s good work is getting around! Christie Kieschnick has been invited as a participant or speaker for a number of groups on the subject of aging-out foster youth. These include: A “think tank” of stakeholders for bold visioning for foster care, convened by Senator Mary Landrieu and Judge Madeliene Landrieu; the Children’s Law Committee of the Louisiana Bar Association; the Christian Community Development Association Annual Conference; Country Day High School; and several churches.
LSS is devoting considerable attention to the future of youth aging out of foster care, as part of our mission to end multigenerational child abuse. The bleak statistics for youth who lack a support system or permanent family when they age out speak volumes.
According to various studies across the country:
- 12-30 percent struggled with homelessness
- 40-63 percent did not complete high school
- 25-55 percent were unemployed; those employed had average earnings below the poverty level, and only 38 percent of those employed were still working after one year
- 30-62 percent had trouble accessing health care due to inadequate finances or lack of insurance
- 32-40 percent were forced to rely on some form of public assistance and 50 percent experienced extreme financial hardship
- 31-42 percent had been arrested
- 18-26 percent were incarcerated
BeREAL always needs and welcomes donations and volunteers, to maintain the momentum and continue the important work they do. Read more about the program, and how you can help, on the BeREAL website.