Springfield organization works with foster kids to find them employment, proposes new incentive

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A nonprofit agency is working to help young people who have aged out of the foster care system find steady jobs. But they propose a new incentive for employers

Foster Adopt Connect in Springfield already works with kids ages 18-to-26 through the Community Connections Youth Project. The organization helped 47 kids get jobs in 2018 by partnering with the career center.

Foster kids frequently do not learn all the life skills they need, and are much more likely to be unemployed and homeless. A new study says 59 percent of Missouri foster kids 16-and-up age out of the system without being adopted.

Foster Adopt Connect is working to build a statewide program giving employers tax credits for hiring former foster kids. The organization is modeling it after a program in New Mexico.

Toby Wilkerson is a former foster child who aged out of the system. Now, she is a small business owner, wife, mother, and foster mom. She attributes much of her success to a man at her local McDonald's who gave her a job at just 14-years-old. She hopes the proposal can become reality and help more foster kids find study work as adults.

"You're going to have to maybe give a little more grace than usual, then you would with somebody else that you would hire," said Wilkerson. "You are going to maybe have to teach them skills that you would have otherwise expected someone to walk in the door with. So I just think it's important, and it's a good kind of incentive for businesses to kind of say, you know what, I will put in that extra effort. I will do a little extra leg work, because I'm going to get something out of it."

Regardless of the proposal, staff at Foster Adopt Connect are always looking for employers willing to give a little more time and attention to gain dedicated employees in former foster kids.