May 30, 2013 — For many, the plight of foster children is something unseen, handled by the state while those fortunate enough to have families go about their lives.
But what happens when those in foster care age out of the system and suddenly find themselves out of sight, out of mind for the state, as well?
There are more than 14,000 children in foster care through Michigan’s Department of Human Services. More than 40 percent of that number is in the tri-county area, the majority in Wayne County.
Looming over each of their heads is the date they no longer receive assistance from the state, usually around age 21. That’s when they will be left to fend for themselves, with no family to turn to for guidance or support.
Life after high school is a source of great anxiety for these children, who already suffer acute feelings of abandonment. Any sense of stability is fleeting as they move from one place to another. And their caseworkers don’t always have the time to drive them to school or make sure they have the right supplies, much less play the role of a parent.
Recognizing the difficulty of this situation, the Park West Foundation formed in 2006 with the express purpose of aiding such individuals. Since then, it has assisted more than 500 young adults with matters of finance, clothing, housing, education and employment. Their focus was originally women, but now they also assist men aging out of foster care.
They also collaborate with a number of organizations to provide support services, such as crisis response, prevention and intervention; family preservation and life skills; teen parenting; and even worship opportunities through Life Directions, a program that provides exposure to different views of spirituality.
Without groups like the Park West Foundation, “Some would age out straight to the streets, and they’re the most likely to get in trouble and wind up in prison, since no one is caring for them or watching for them,” said Saba Gebrai, director of the Park West Foundation. “There is no stability or career path, no parents explaining what to do…”
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For more information about the Park West Foundation, Park West Gallery CARES and Park West Gallery’s other philanthropic initiatives, please visit www.parkwestgallery.org.