Need: Mentors for youth aging out of the state foster care safety net

Image by Mohamed Hassan, of Pixaby. Used with permission.

Alaska has approximately 3,000 youth in foster care, and many of these young people have stepped forward to ask for a mentor. Their wish is for the steadying guidance of an adult as they exit the foster care safety net and take their first steps into independent adulthood. This transition to responsible adulthood is hard for anyone, but can be especially difficult for a young person going it alone.

Here are the words of former foster care client Slade Martin, who left foster care at age 19:

“Basically it’s just like one day everybody is there for you and the next day, you are on your own. I didn’t understand what my credit score was. I didn’t understand anything about how to find an apartment. I didn’t understand … how to find out who is scamming you and who is not.” He said he wishes he had had a mentor to guide him along.

He was quoted in an Anchorage Daily News story on the kick-off of the mentor program.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska (BBBS) is actively working to find these mentors. SYNC is the name of their program designed to match foster youth age 14-21 with “a supportive and caring adult mentor who will be there as a friend and provide stability as they move through the system and transition out of foster care.” They hope the connection might last for years, from foster care to beyond.

Mentors must be 25 years of age or older. SYNC is funded by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services – Office of Children’s Services.

The need is great, advocates say. According to a sponsor statement for HB 151, a bill passed in 2018 that recommended improvements in foster care,”roughly 40 percent of our foster youth end up homeless at some point in their lives after leaving care, and roughly 20 percent end up in jail.”

On today’s Hometown Alaska, we’ll talk about mentoring foster youth on the brink of adulthood, a person-to-person connection that can be made even more complicated right now by COVID-19 constraints. Join us.

HOST: Kathleen McCoy

GUESTS:

  • Trina Resari-Salao, VP Programs, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska
  • Amanda Metivier Hernandez, co-founder, director and board member of Facing Foster Care in Alaska
  • Les Gara, foster care advocate, Alaska State Representative 2003-2018, sponsor of HB 27 and HB 151, bills to improve foster care

LINKS

PARTICIPATE:

  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (2:00 – 3:00pm)
  • Send e-mail to hometown@alaskapublic.org before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air
  • LIVE: Monday, August 17, 2020 at 2:00 p.m
  • RE-AIR: Monday, August 17, 2020 at 8:00 p.m.
  • PODCAST: at www.alaskapublic.org/hometown for free future public access