On behalf of National Foster Care Awareness Month, we’d like to showcase real stories about real youth with foster care experience who have overcome challenges, thanks to the proper resources and resolve. First, here is a bit of background on the hardships our youth, particularly those who have aged out of foster care or dealt with crises, face.
For unconnected youth during the pandemic, times are difficult. While for many of these young people, their chief concerns include unemployment and housing insecurity, there is a less acknowledged symptom that accompanies COVID-19.
This symptom can neither be cured through social distancing nor isolation and in fact, will worsen under these circumstances; this symptom is loneliness.
According to Mike Watkins’ article in The Omaha World-Herald, about 8,000 youth in the Omaha-Council Bluffs Metropolitan area are considered unconnected. This term, employed by Nebraska Children and Families Foundation’s Connected Youth Initiative, refers to young people between the ages of 14-25 who have experienced the foster care, juvenile justice system, and/or homelessness. Due to these encounters, these youth are separated from their community, resources, and family.
As a result of this isolation, in the face of the coronavirus, unconnected youth may experience a heightened sense of aloneness. Unlike some who feel a valid sadness due to being cut off from family and friends, this group of youth grapples with more alienation.
Connected Youth Initiative and Project Everlast, are here to help. Created in response to Project Everlast’s positive reception and to expand statewide, the Connected Youth Initiative continues to identify the needs of young people who require support during the pandemic.
As COVID-19 numbers rise, Project Everlast Omaha seeks out those affected youth in the metro, particularly those released from incarceration. For young members of our community, feeling excluded is hard enough, but being released into an uncertain, altered world is even more taxing.
After locating these young people, Project Everlast Omaha has implemented a support system. Some of these resources include the program providing these young citizens with essential technology.
One young man fits this description. Having been released from incarceration, he had no form of vital communication, and that includes a phone. Whenever he needed to contact someone, he had to walk to the Urban League of Omaha. In turn, he was then assigned a CYI Coach to try and address his needs. Of course, due to the difficulties in reaching him, the solution didn’t work out as planned.
With the help of funders and new supporters, Project Everlast Omaha bought the young man a phone with a month of service, which the organization dropped off at the Urban League of Omaha.
This young man received more than a phone. This small piece of technology is a game-changer because he can now remain in contact.
Thanks to Connected Youth Initiative and its funders, this young man has the chance to pursue a connected life. He can transition back into society to plan his housing and employment.
During unpredictable times, Connected Youth Initiative recognizes that our young people need support. We are glad to see this initiative doing the good work to help youth reconnect to their communities and move closer down the path to thriving.