Remember turning 18? Were you ready to get out of your parent’s home, get a job or go to college, live on your own? Did you have a high school diploma? A car? Did you know how to cook yourself a meal? Did you have a doctor? Birth control? A job?
Kids Who Age Out of Foster Care
If you look back and think how unprepared you were for adulthood when you turned 18, know that it’s a lot worse for kids who grow up in foster care. Foster children who are not adopted grow up living in institutions. They rarely are allowed to leave campus. Their meals are cooked and brought to them, they are educated on campus, and they are rarely if ever unsupervised in public. In fact, they rarely go out in public at all. As a result, these teens do not have the supportive relationships, families, opportunities, or skills to survive young adult-hood. Specifically, they likely have nowhere to live. In the past, when foster children turned 18, they are literally turned out on to the street with the possessions they can carry with them.
Each year kids who age out of foster care in Tennessee are at greater risk for homelessness, unemployment, pregnancy, and human trafficking. For a more in depth look at the statistics, go to Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Kids with Opportunities
Vestal Villas, a project of Vestal United Methodist Church and Held Law Firm, is going to change these statistics. We have created a first-of-its-kind program, using the church’s vacant classroom building to create 16 apartments for foster care kids who have aged out of DCS custody and are on their own for the first time. With our community partners, we intend to create a supportive community of youth learning the life skills they need to go on with their education, a job, a car, and a permanent home.
It's just 16 apartments – that’s 16 kids. 16 kids who have an opportunity to continue their education, find a job, and be provided supportive counseling. And think of all the empty church classroom buildings in our area. What better use for these spaces than to house the homeless – especially young people, at the most vulnerable point in their lives. but also at the point where community support can make the most difference?
DCS will pay the rent for up to three years per kid. We just have to raise the money to renovate the building. We already have the drawings and the community support. So come out to Vestal United Methodist Church in South Knoxville this Saturday July 22, 2023! Come listen to True Blue Bluegrass Band play bluegrass music, eat barbeque from Love that Barbeque, throw balls to dunk Pastor Tim Jackson and play traditional games like egg in spoon races and water balloon tosses. Come see the architectural plans and meet people who care as much about foster care youth as you do.