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Independent Living Program: Angie
Published Thursday, August 28, 2014
Angie, 17, has been through a lot in her young life.
When she was six, she and her two siblings were removed from their home and placed in the foster care system. While in foster care, Angie lived in “seven or eight or nine homes” (she doesn't remember the exact number) until she was 11.
At first she remained with her siblings, but her sister, then a young teen, was quickly separated, and, over time, she was separated from her brother who is just a year older than Angie. She was eventually reunited with her mother, but another family crisis resulted in Angie re-entering the child welfare system during her freshman year in high school.
Now a junior at Northwest High School, Angie has been working with Independent Living Skills (ILS) Specialist Dinyal McCray for six months. Angie originally questioned whether she could fit ILS into her busy schedule of honors AP classes, ROTC, helping to watch her little sisters, and working long shifts at Taco Bell, but at her mother's urging she signed up. She says she's glad she did.
"It's kind of hard to find the time to sit down with Dinyal, but it really helps to have her there as a support system," Angie explains. "She talks to me about school and work and what I want for the future—and then how I can achieve those goals. Dinyal helps us SO much! Even if I don't have a question about the program, she's there for me. I think every teenager should have someone like that to help them."
Angie's dreams include taking advantage of the two-year full scholarship she's already received from Metro Community College with the goal of eventually becoming a registered nurse. After Metro, she plans to finish her bachelor's degree at a local university—but that doesn't mean she's given up on her dream of serving as a combat medic in the army. "In ROTC my Staff Sergeant says he had so many opportunities placed in front of him in the army...I want those opportunities, too."
Though her days are long, Angie says she draws inspiration from her mother. "I saw my mom's drive and how hard she worked to get us back and how hard she works now to take care of me and my little sisters...She's in nursing school now, too, but she comes home and makes dinner, helps the little ones with their homework, and checks to see if I've finished mine. I am so proud of her."
Not everyone who has been in the child welfare system is so motivated to succeed, but Angie is determined to accomplish her dreams. "I see teenagers in my life and they don't have any goals and don't know what they want to do with their lives. I DO, and I want to push myself to make something of myself. Sure, I have had some bad stuff happen in my life, but I truly believe the past is what makes our futures brighter."
Child Saving Institute's Independent Living Program
There are more than 300 19-year-olds who age out of the Nebraska foster care system each year, and they all need the same kind of support other teens are getting from their families.
That's where Child Saving Institute's Independent Living Skills (ILS) program fills in the gap. Funded by Lincoln Financial Foundation and the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, the program breaks down the steps to independent living and puts them in order so the current and former state wards can make a plan.
Child Saving Institute's program specialists provide mentoring, hands-on education, and ongoing support for such critical life skills as finding a job, budgeting, searching for housing, as well as building healthy relationships. Most of the referrals come from Project Everlast, a statewide, youth-led initiative committed to providing resources, connections and support to young adults as they age out of foster care.
Dinyal McCray, one of Child Saving Institute's team of three Independent Living Specialists, explains, "This is a proactive program where the clients must engage. We meet with the client and formulate a plan based on their current and future needs. We do not provide a fast track to a new job or housing; however, we put the clients in contact with available community resources and provide them with the tools they will need—but it is up to the client to use them. This, in itself, is an important life skill."
Youth aging out of foster care without guardianship or permanency face joblessness, homelessness, persistent mental health issues, unintended pregnancy and a host of other challenges. But with the help of people like Dinyal—and caring community partners like you—we help to remove barriers that keep them from achieving personal success.