If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day.

 

If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.

 

Unfortunately, if a man does not believe he is worthy of eating, he will not learn to fish.

 

 

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What happens when a young person “ages out” of the U.S. foster care system?

What are the characteristics of a young adult in need of support?

What are other factors contributing to Youth Homelessness?

How Does the Lightening Alliance Help?

 

What happens when a young person “ages out” of the U.S. foster care system?

It is not uncommon for a young person leaving care at age 18 to be put out on the street with a garbage bag of their belongings.

The Foster Care Alumni of America reports the following outcomes during the transition from care to adulthood:

  • 54% – Earned a high school diploma
  • 2% – Obtained a Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 84% – Became a parent
  • 51% – Were unemployed
  • 30% – Had no health insurance
  • 25% – Had been homeless
  • 30% – Were receiving public assistance

Kidsarewaiting.org reports that 1 in 4 will be incarcerated within two years of leaving the system.

What are the characteristics of a young adult in need of support?

Runaway and homeless youth flee conflict, abuse, neglect or, increasingly, poverty according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH).  Agencies in North Texas such as CITY House, Promise House and TRAC report that youth coming into care have experienced the following:

  • 45% reported at least one episode of homelessness in the past
  • 80% reported violence within their home
  • 35% reported being a victim of sexual abuse
  • 45% reported having at least 1 parent with psychological issues
  • 85% reported being a victim of physical or emotional/verbal abuse
  • 35% reported that someone in their family used drugs regularly
  • 15% reported someone close to them had been murdered
  • 45% had not seen a dentist within the 5 years prior to being placed in care

The Network on Transitions to Adulthood reports that youth coming out of  foster care are “…less likely to form the kind of lasting relationships with responsible adults that will help them move toward independence. …They more often suffer from mental health problems, they more often become involved in crime or are victims of crime, and they are more frequently homeless. …[They] are less likely to be employed than their peers; they are more likely to rely on public assistance; and they earn, on average, too little to escape poverty. Their family life also suffers. They are more likely to have children outside of marriage; if they do marry, they are more likely to have marital problems. They are also more socially isolated than their peers.”

It’s no wonder.  The average foster youth spends 5 years in the system and most often experiences multiple placements, sometimes as many as 10-15.  With each placement comes a 6 month delay in academic readiness and a decreased ability to form strong personal connections.  Day to day survival becomes the priority so planning for the future is neglected.  Kidsarewaiting.org reports that the average 18 year old leaving care has no connections to a reliable adult and reports feeling “scared, uncertain and alone, and largely unprepared to handle everyday life.”  25% leave care dealing with the effects of  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

What are other factors contributing to Youth Homelessness?

The National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) reports that

  • Youth homelessness is increased because of discharge from state institutions without adequate supports.  Without a home, family support, or other resources, homeless youth are often locked up because they are without supervision and arrested for “status” offenses, such as running away or breaking curfew.  In addition, as youth age out of the foster care system or are released from juvenile detention, they may lack support systems and opportunities for work and housing.
  • There is a lack of capacity to help homeless youth because the existing homeless assistance system is largely designed for adults.  Local nonprofit organizations lack the capacity to offer early intervention and prevention or residential stability to the majority of youth who need it.  Shelters, housing projects, and other assistance providers often do not understand the needs of homeless youth and may lack the resources to provide the necessary interventions.

How Does the Lightening Alliance Help?

The Lightening Alliance is unique in that we look beyond material needs to address the emotional, relational and soul-level needs that we all require in order to thrive.  We’ve all heard the popular quote:

If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day; If you teach a man how to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.

And yet despite the wide variety of “teaching” available, vulnerable youth are not taking the initiative to “fish” for themselves.  Why?  We believe that without the basic belief that one is worthy of receiving and/or capable of obtaining “fish,” a person can easily succumb to a state of helplessness, hopelessness and dis-empowerment.  We have all had the experience of failing to achieve something that we believed was impossible in the first place.  Add to that the constant assault on self-esteem that an unstable childhood produces, and it is no wonder these youth become “lost.”  And so what is needed to build a belief in what IS possible?  At the Lightening Alliance, we focus on the following:

  • Nutrition and Health:  High quality nutrition that supports a clean and clear brain and body supports better quality feelings and decision making.
  • Self-Awareness:  Knowing who you are, what you are worth, and what your are currently experiencing creates the ability to make new choices.
  • Belief Systems:  Raising subconscious and/or socially promoted beliefs to a conscious level allows for the objective examination and a determination of how well they serve personal needs.
  • Trauma Recovery:  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other impacts of an unstable childhood manifest in the physical and emotional body.  Our programs use a variety of non-pharmaceutical and non-surgical modalities to support a shift towards releasing trauma and towards the emotional mastery needed in order to thrive.
  • Life Skills Development:  Young adults at risk are at risk partly because they have not had the opportunity to develop many of the basic building blocks of self-sufficiency.  Our program focuses on basic self-care, environment-care, project management and financial management to develop the basic skills needed to thrive in a complex society.
  • Relationship and Community Building:  Everything we want in life requires good relationship skills and a community of support.  Whether it is building a family, a career or World Peace, our programs emphasize the development of healthy relationships within a team structure.
  • Life Planning/Self Realization:  Ultimately our goal is to put each youth in the drivers seat of using their skills and talents to create the life they are uniquely intended for.  From the visualization of what is desired, to the realization of what is possible, to the execution of the steps to get there, our programs support each youth in knowing that they can be, and in fact ARE a success in every sense of the word.