Life Project

We warned that jumping into the world of foster care would change us. I just don’t think I could’ve realized how many layers that change would strip away and reconfigure and shift, making it impossible to ever go back to our “before”. From big things like our faith, marriage, and parenting decisions to little things like my growing indifference to things that we’re now recognizing as superficial. We’ve been given a glimpse of where and with whom God’s heart beats strongest and we simply cannot go back to the days of spending the bulk of our waking thoughts on carpet color and pinterest-worthy birthday parties. We’re still trying to make sense of what this perspective shift means for our family and how it merges with our “before”, but what we know for sure is that we feel like we’re right where God wants us… clinging to Him with our eyes pointed toward the mess and hurting.

One of these issues that God has opened our eyes to is the thousands of kids who are aging out of the foster system every day. We’ve heard first hand experiences from our daughter’s birth mom who aged out of foster care and we now have a face and loved one that makes the alarming statistics all the more real. It’s estimated that 50% of these kids will end up homeless, 50% unemployed, and 60% of the girls will become pregnant within a few years (source: http://www.foreverkids.org). Not to mention the fact that, statistically, 1 in 4 eventually end up in prison (source: National Resource for Family and Policy Connections).

These statistics are not evidence of bad kids, they are evidence of a society that is failing its most vulnerable children.

But how can we do better? I truly believe that the most important first steps involve listening, observing, and engaging with these kids to better understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes. We need to actually come alongside them, not just throw more laws and money at the problem. We don’t all have the opportunity to connect with these kids in tangible ways, but we do have the technology today to make it possible for everyone to sit down and listen and come up with more informed ideas of how we can do better.

I was recently contacted by Barry Thornburg, a Denton-based filmmaker, letting me know about an amazing project he’s working on that will make this very thing possible. Barry is creating a documentary to show how “meaningful relationships with responsible adults is the distinguishing factor between foster youth who thrive as adults and those that do not”. Good gravy, this makes so much sense, you guys. This documentary will be a window into the real life of a young man, Donovan, as he navigates his way into the adult world after aging out of foster care. This is an invitation to better understand the lives of these kids who need us most.

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“The audience will intimately observe the intricacies of these decisions and how adults from different parts of his life get involved, for better or for worse.

What makes this film unique is that it draws upon his personal perspective. In addition to observational footage of him (gathered by a film crew), he is also given a camera in which he can record things that he thinks should be included in the film and giving him an opportunity to explain his decisions in his own words. This behind-the-scenes perspective can empower those in a position to mentor with empathy and understanding when interacting with people in Donovan’s shoes.
Whether it is finances, health care, transportation, employment or education choices, Donovan does not have the luxury of a traditional family support structure to guide him every step of the way or catch him when he falls. Social workers, medical professionals, educators and volunteers all have exceptional opportunities to mentor and guide youth and young adults in situations like Donovan’s because of their frequent exposure to them. This documentary will show us how they work with Donovan and how he responds to each.
This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.”- Life Project

Barry plans on using this documentary to be a resource for the general population as well as professionals and lawmakers who are making decisions on behalf of these kids aging out. He’s also designed a lesson plan to accompany the documentary that will undoubtedly stir up life-changing conversations.

I encourage every single one of you reading this to go watch the short clip about this documentary and to support Barry’s efforts as you feel called. And please visit his kickstarter page to learn about ways to join the project. I feel so honored to be able to share this with you all!

“This can change perceptions of foster youth, influencing child welfare policy, training and education, and encouraging responsible adults to mentor these newly emerging adults.”- Barry Thornburg

chrystal

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3 Responses to Life Project

  1. Anka says:

    There is already an award winning documentary on this topic that I would recommend, entitled “Aging Out.” http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0395441/

  2. Shanna says:

    Aging out is the reason a friend of mine started a non-profit called Seeds to Success. You can find more information here (including a link to her GoFundMe and Facebook):

    http://www.katc.com/story/30101790/lafayette-family-starts-seeds-to-success-program-for-foster-kids

    • Shanna says:

      From her GoFundMe page:

      “As foster parents, my husband and I have seen many cases of kids coming from hard places. Twenty-two foster kids have come through our house so far. Don’t tell Troy, but we’re not even close to done 😉 We adopted two wonderful boys, had to make the difficult decision not to adopt some who were not the right fit for our family, proudly sent some back to birth parents who had worked really hard to be ready for them, and were devastated by the return of 2 babies to biological families after more than a year in our home each.

      One girl that we felt we couldn’t adopt is still on my heart–years after leaving our home. She’s got some problems; and knowing her story, I’ll tell you she’s entitled to every one. But she occassionally has angry outbursts that we feel could be a danger to the younger children in our home. She’s 14 now, and has been in foster care since she was 8 years old. That’s a long time to not have a family. The sad truth is that she’ll likely “age-out.” Foster kids who don’t return to birth families, and don’t get adopted, are essentially expected to grow up on their 18th birthdays. They have NO FAMILY, few life skills, little education, and nowhere to turn. A startling 70% end up in trouble (jail, pregnant, homeless, prostitution).

      This is a number we’d like to see diminished. We envision a program that houses these kids, teaches them about job searching, life skills, money management, etc. Seeds to Success will be a farm with housing for these kids and a program to teach them independent living skills, without making them live independently on their 18th birthdays.”

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