Do you remember the anticipation of your 18th birthday? Independence. Adulthood. FINALLY being able to do what you want to do (or so you think)!
For most of us 18 represented the pathway to freedom, a demarkation point in our life that stood for separation from our family-fold and entrance into adulthood. It’s a healthy and natural transition point for most young men and women.
What if, instead of anticipation, you looked forward to your 18th birthday with a mixture of dread and anxiety. Why? Because instead of a healthy separation from family, you know you’re going to face a forced separation – being kicked out. For Doodlebug*, this was an all-too-real scenario; she knew that her 18th birthday represented a deadline: the day she had to move into a homeless shelter or find a program that would accept her.
Her referral into our home came as a result of the teachers and staff of her high school advocating on her behalf. They called, emailed and talked to anyone they could – churches, friends, organizations – to find Doodlebug a home. The family that she had been living with had made her choices very clear:
1. You’re not staying here.
2. You are responsible for finding a new place to live.
3. If you haven’t found a place to live by your 18th birthday, we will drop you off at a homeless shelter.
We received the email one day before her 18th birthday, time was short. In the middle of her senior year of high school, she was about to have to cut her education short, leave her school, leave the family she had known and figure life out on her own. We contacted the teacher who had drafted the email and agreed to meet with the education staff and Doodlebug at the school the next day – on her 18th birthday.
Surrounded in teachers and administrators, we met Doodlebug in an office/classroom of her school. She cried, we cried, teachers, principals and nurses cried.
Doodlebug is now a part of our family. Now she has family to help her transition into her future; a mom, dad and siblings who will always be involved in her life. It terrifies me to think about what would have happened to Doodlebug if we hadn’t said, “Yes.”
The sad reality is that Doodlebug is just 1 of the estimated 27,000 young men and women who age out of foster care annually.
“Without family or any other dependable adults to rely on for assistance, these young people are at high risk of homelessness, joblessness, illness, incarceration, welfare dependency, early childbearing, and sexual and physical victimization.” Children’s Rights Organization
We can do better as a society and community. We can offer hope. We can offer home. We can offer forever.
Will you help spread the word and raise awareness for them? We can make a difference.