Local non-profit virtually encourages teens aging out of foster care during pandemic
Teenagers who have rarely, or maybe never, had a true family of their own are heading into the real world at an awful time. An organization in southwest Missouri is trying to help make that transition easier for foster kids during the pandemic, but that can only go so far.
"Whenever you go into foster care, for me, it felt like I lost everyone, I didn't have anyone in my life," said Chainee, a Springfield woman who recently aged out of the foster care system.
She was in and out of the system from the time she was 13. Chainee, who asked to only use her first name, was on her own by 21.
"Everything gets yanked away in a day," she said.
David Gurian works with at-risk youth in Springfield.
"For these youth, they really don't have anyone," he said.
Gurian said most children age out of the foster care system at 18.
"The state declares they are now an adult and they are responsible for taking care of themselves," Gurian said.
Speaking from experience, Chainee said it was incredibly tough to go from having a case worker, attorney, and therapist to no one.
"I can't even imagine what it would be like aging out during this. It would be, it's probably terrifying," she said.
Gurian said the coronavirus pandemic is adding pressure to teens who are already preparing for change.
"This is a really trying time for them. We have heard nonstop just how lonely our youth are feeling right now," he said.
Gurian said his organization, I Pour Life, is dedicated to setting kids in the system up for success, but that's harder to do with social distance recommendations.
"We saw the crisis continue to grow is that access to meeting face to face with our youth was going to go away. Typically we meet weekly with them, if not more frequently in person," he said.
Now, they're doing virtual meetings, group sessions and game nights, to make sure teens who are struggling, aren't going it alone.
"This is a group that we want to see succeed. We need to see them succeed," Gurian said.
"They're going through everything that we are except, they have no family to lean on right now," Chainee said.
According to Gurian, services such as healthcare, food and housing will be extended for teens until the pandemic is over.