Imagine navigating into adulthood without the warm embrace of a parent’s hug. In a world that spins quickly around them, when foster youth age out and become emancipated from the system that supported them, they often follow a lonely path.
Fate proved different for An Tran, 21, who found her way to California after aging out of the foster-care system in another state. She landed in the supportive enclave of Jeremiah’s Promise – a local nonprofit that provides one-on-one mentoring, college and career support and web-based life coaching to 17- to 24-year-old former foster youth.
“Jeremiah’s Promise helped me see the brighter side of things,” said Tran, crediting her trained adult mentor, a science researcher at Stanford University who gave her the encouragement and direction to complete her GED and enroll in West Valley College to study biomedical engineering.
The journey wasn’t always easy for Tran, who experienced problems within her foster families and felt ignored by the legal foster-care system.
“After you age out, you literally get dumped on the street,” she said.
The Santa Clara County Department of Family & Child Services reports that 150 young adults age out of foster care in the county each year.
Without photo identification or a birth certificate, tasks like opening a bank account and applying for a job became nearly impossible for Tran.
She received invaluable support from Jeremiah’s Promise.
The organization treated her with respect, she said, asking what she needed to improve her life situation. She identified things as basic as a new pair of glasses and school supplies to more sustainable resources like life skills and relationship-building advice.
“The greatest need of our clients is to heal the very damaging emotional and physical scars left from years of childhood abuse or exploitation,” Jeremiah’s Promise founder and CEO Kim Golter said. “The second greatest need is to find people who will support, encourage and challenge them to become the people they were born to be.”
Jeremiah’s Promise volunteer Carolyn Robinson has experience working with foster youth at an area correctional institution. She became involved as a workshop instructor.
“I hear it every day: ‘If only I had this information earlier, I would have done things differently,’” she said.
Together with a dozen regular volunteers, Robinson played an integral role in instructing and mentoring 115 students through Jeremiah’s Promise community college workshops in 2013. The organization also provided donations and support to more than 180 emancipated foster youth and dependents in a local transitional housing program.
With the launch of a new web-based coaching tool that will be accessible to local workshop participants and emancipated foster youth from across the country, Golter sees the impact of Jeremiah’s Promise’s work expanding even more in the future.