This project was developed in response to the knowledge that upwards of 80% of the youth trafficked domestically come out of foster care.
There are approximately 26,000 children in foster care in the state of Texas. Some children eventually return to their parents or extended family but too many spend most of their childhood in this state of limbo and are ill prepared to establish a productive and satisfying life when they “age out” and are thrust into the community. Of those who establish an independent residence, more than half are homeless within a year. Some go to college but without the emotional support that family provides, many drop out within a year.
Surely we can do more for these youngsters and who amongst community organizations is better able than the caring, resourceful women of NCJW.
The program has joined forces with BCFS, Health and Human Services which provides foster care, after care services and coordinates services amongst child care agencies. Our luggage drive was very successful. Now the belongings of children in care can be transported from home to home in serviceable luggage rather than in the black garbage bags that were previously used. Ten NCJW volunteers served as chaperones at the December Christmas Party given by BCFS and held at Sunset Station. In addition, we arranged for two licensed hairdressers to come to the party venue and style the girls' hair. Cindy Rodriguez, owner of several Merle Norman stores, and her daughter did the make-up and donated the supplies along with section member Sandra Grimm. It was wonderful to see the girls light up when they viewed themselves in the mirror.
In February, our member Sharon Teich, trained staff in how to assist youth in filing their federal income taxes. Then Sharon, and newly trained BFCS workers, worked with the youngsters on the computers to file electronically. Sunday, March 8th, our members accompanied a dozen girls to see Gypsy at the San Pedro Playhouse. The section paid for the tickets and gave these girls their first experience at viewing a live professional theater performance.
In the coming months, we hope to provide various educational, social and cultural experiences for this target population. New state regulations mandate that preparation for independent living begin at age 14 rather than at 16 years of age which was the previous directive.
Local NCJW representatives are involved with state wide focus groups established to assist in re-envisioning the system. Some of our members will become mentors to foster care youth who are preparing to live independently. Lee Markman has already undergone a screening and is waiting to be matched with a youth. The first session of training for mentors was held in February and will be repeated on April 22nd . The training will be held at the home of Ruthie Wurzburg and is open to all members and spouses even if you are not interested in mentoring.