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Shortage of mentors for Southwest Florida foster kids as they grow older

Local leaders in programs around Southwest Florida said they are struggling to find mentors as children age. It leaves these kids without valuable guidance as they bridge the gap from childhood to adulthood.

Bouncing from one home to another home, Selena Young is unable to count the number of mentor figures she has in her life on one hand. As Young has grown older, she finds most people take the words, ‘hi mom,’ for granted.

“It’s like, you don’t realize how easy those words can be towards someone,” Young said through tears. “Because I don’t have one.”

Across the state of Florida, there is an alarming shortage of mentors for kids who have aged out of foster care. Young’s tough, life experience is motivating her to earn a masters in social work to help fix the system.

For Young, who is now the president of the Southwest Chapter of Florida Youth Shine, which fights for the rights of foster kids in Florida, having a mentor would help her in many life experiences, such as buying her first car, applying for college and leaning on someone when times get tough.

Ellen Barron runs a support group for foster kids aging out of care.

“Going from high school right into adult life where you’re kind of taking care of yourself, now all of the sudden, coming from an environment where you had the structure of staff, you know, monitoring your behavior and everything,” Barron said. “It’s often very jarring.”

Although mentors are needed now, programs like hers are a step in the right direction. It lends a hand to the next generation.

“That’s really big because if I didn’t have that,” Young said, “I don’t know where I’d be right now.”

For more information on mentoring or foster care visit Children’s Network of Southwest Florida.

Reporter:Justin Kase
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