The plight of youth in foster care is grim. When they age out of the foster care system at just 18 years old, they face the world alone and often without the proper skills needed to become independent. Statics show they are at high risk of homelessness, poverty, criminal involvement and victimization. Most have experienced some form of abuse or neglect before entering foster care.
While resources exist to support their transition into adulthood, navigating the web of confusing government programs, financial aid paperwork, and other “real world” responsibilities is overwhelming. That’s why BCFS Health and Human Services operates transition centers all over the state of Texas that address the needs of youth in foster care and other struggling young adults.
The BCFS Health and Human Services’ Kerrville Transition Center was established in 2007 to help young adults in need throughout the Texas Hill Country. The mission of the center is to provide services for local families and youth to expand their skills and knowledge, strengthen their self-confidence, create healthy community relationships and teach positive self-guidance. Darien Lynn of Kerrville is one of thousands of youth whose lives are changed each year at a BCFS transition center.
Darien was just 9 years old when he was removed from his home by Child Protective Services. Over the course of eight years, he moved from foster home to foster home, living with 30 different families by the time he was 18 years old.
Imagine moving to a different home, school, family and community three times a year! It would be emotional and overwhelming for any child, much less a child struggling to overcome the trauma of being removed from his biological family.
Darien says he felt like “a horrible kid” because he was constantly on the move. He spent much of his adolescence worrying about what would happen to him when he turned 18. But after several years of working with his local BCFS transition center, the Darien that lived in fear and uncertainty is unrecognizable to the Darien that lives in Kerrville today.
The transition center taught him how to find employment, including how to submit job applications, write a resume, and keep a job; how to manage his finances, like how to write a check, balance a checkbook and budget wisely; and he even took life skills courses that helped him improve his communication skills, schedule his day to be productive, and cook healthy meals for himself.
Transition center staff were tickled pink to hear Darien exclaim proudly, “Woo-hoo, I’m even a taxpayer now!” when they helped him file his taxes for the first time.
“BCFS helped me with my financial aid applications and admission paperwork so I could attend college,” says Darien. “They also helped me access funds to help pay for food and electricity, and for a while I lived in the BCFS Transitional Living Apartments in Kerrville.”
The BCFS Transitional Living Apartments offer affordable and supportive housing units for young adults ages 18 to 25. The apartments are a drug and alcohol-free environment for youth transitioning into self-sufficiency and those struggling with homelessness. All tenants are provided case management, counseling, employment and educational services at the transition center while living at the apartments.
“The transition center feels like home to me. Whenever I go there, the staff makes me feel so welcome, and they’re always eager to help,” says Darien.
Darien works part-time for the BCFS youth-run business, Green & Clean, which provides residential and commercial cleaning as well as lawn maintenance. Green & Clean aims to help underprivileged young adults gain entrepreneurial and real-world work experience.
“Now, I’m a young man on my own and it feels great! I go to church, buy groceries, pay bills and pay rent,” says Darien. “I have my own apartment and work two jobs – one for a local food service company at the university. In fact, I just won an award at my job for being extra helpful to my co-workers and bosses.”
Darien’s memories of drifting from foster home to foster home are fading into the past, and he says he owes his bright future in part to the network of BCFS programs that showed him how to capitalize on his true potential.