There are a lot of children in the metro who are in need of a home and a loving family. It's not just toddlers and small children. There's a real need to adopt and mentor teenagers who are quickly aging out of the foster care system. Once they age out at 19, they find themselves lacking skills needed to be an adult.
“I don't know how many I've been in a lot,” said Brittany Merrill when she was asked how many foster homes she’d been in. “Just moving from home to home, it's just a lot I guess.”
The 16-year-old is being featured in the Child Saving Institute’s Heart Gallery. It's a site that features children who are waiting for adoption, photographed by a professional photographer.
Merrill, along with many others are hoping to one day find a forever family. She has several years before she ages out of the foster system, but that’s not the case for everyone.
“We have kids entering into society that haven't developed the skills that many have. 18, 19, 20 is pretty young, young people are still learning a lot of things at those times.” Luke Cerveny is the director of residential services at Child Saving Institute. He helps manage the emergency shelter.
It's currently at full capacity. Twelve foster children are living there; learning life skills and helping with transitions. “We try to create an environment that is as much home like as possible,” said Cerveny.
Child Saving Institute offers an independent living class to teach skills to transition those teenagers who will soon be 19. Career planning, assisting in building life-long connections with adults, mentoring, how to balance a bank account and get a job are all taught.
“I still call my dad to this day with questions and we try to work with these young folks, but ultimately they may not have those opportunities or resources,” said Cerveny.
Often times, without proper guidance and acquired independent living skills learned by parents and guardians, children aging out of foster care can find themselves homeless, incarcerated or living a less than ideal life.
Bottom line, the ideal goal is adoption; and staff is trying their best to help teens find a home.
“It's just my passion to make sure that kids are receiving the services that they need and then long term are able to be successful,” said Lana Verbrigghe with Child Saving Institute.
Child Saving Institute is hoping to gain more volunteers, foster parents and adults looking to adopt older children. For more information, follow the links below.