|Published:||Jul 30, 2012 5:51 PM EDT|
|Updated:||Jul 30, 2012 8:57 PM EDT|
FORT MYERS, Fla. - When foster children turn 18, they're considered adults, released from the system and told they have to fend for themselves.
A Fort Myers non-profit has developed a new program to help at-risk youth make the transition into the real world.
"They're not there to criticize you, judge you, not make you feel less of a person or to make you feel inadequate because you don't know how to do something," said former foster care child, Tessa Clark.
"These kids get out of foster care and they have no clue how to live," she said.
Now 27-years old, Clark says "Supporting Independent Young Adults" or SIYA, helped her make the transition into adulthood.
"They have a plan, they have goals, they have dreams just like everybody else," said SIYA Vice President, Lori Burke.
Burke, along with Tessa's foster mom and co-founder, Jane Bell, are on a mission to help people like Tessa across Lee County.
"We provide services to at-risk young adults in the way of furniture for their first apartments, coaching and mentoring, and social learning activities," Burke said.
They are on-call 24 hours a day, providing advice and guidance.
"They are willing to be that extended family, so that you'll never feel alone, you'll always have somebody there," Clark stated.
Tessa, now a musician and mother living in Atlanta, says she wants to go into law school and become a child advocate.
"God put me through what I can handle because now I can sit down with these kids and say that I've been there and I've done that," she said.
25% of former foster kids will experience homelessness within one year of being released from the system. In Florida, only 3% of 18-22 year olds who have aged-out of foster homes have a full-time job.
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