When a child in foster care turns 18, his or her life can take a dramatic new course, and all too often it’s not for the better. Rossville foster parents Dave and Dana Williams are doing something about it.
"You have kids who have come from troubled backgrounds," says Dave. "Their lives have been full of instability and insecurity. They have no support system, no history with one family."
Dave Williams says statistics show that the first year after aging out of foster care, 70-85 percent of kids end up homeless. "Studies show that 60 percent of girls who age out of foster care become pregnant by the time they turn 21," says Williams, though he believes the number is actually higher than that. "Too often girls sleep with someone just so they’ll have a place to stay."
Enter Our Kindred Community, the nonprofit the Williamses have started to address the problem. "We exist to connect young adults who have aged out of foster care or for any other reason lack a healthy support system with families willing to embrace lifelong relationships" reads the introduction to their vision statement.
And the couple is starting close to home. The Williamses have already fostered 120 children over the past six years and have adopted several. Their home is a buzz of children, many who have grown up and gone on to other things but still come back to visit.
Now the couple has a second home. "It’s right down the street from us," says Dave. "It’s the home I grew up in. My mom was having trouble selling it, so we decided to buy it and start making our dream of helping young adults come true."
The home will be a place where girls in need of support can live, including girls with babies. "The girls will stay in our own home for a trial period of six months so we can make sure they’re serious about their future," says Dave. "From there, they’ll move to the home down the street but remain a part of our family and be connected with other families. They’ll pay some rent to learn financial responsibility, but that will include utilities and any meals they’d like to have with us at the main house. Our doors are always open."
But this isn’t just a place for girls to live. A resident advisor will also live at the house. Girls will be required to sit down with advisors and create a plan for their immediate future, including education and financial goals and ways to reach them, an assessment of medical and dental needs, and deadlines for attaining their goals.
"Our plan is to pair each girl with a loving family willing to open its heart and life," says Dave. "It will be a mix of expectations and a lot of support."
Included in the Our Kindred Community plan are weekly classes in areas the Williamses have outlined in their vision statement: Spiritual Growth, Finances, Job Skills, Home Living, Self-awareness, and Health.
The help offered through Our Kindred Community is not limited to girls who live in the group’s home. "Our goal is to help as many young people as possible," says Dave. "We would like to see this plan replicated."
Why are they doing it? "God told us to," the Williamses say in their vision statement. "We believe one of the most horrible tragedies anyone could face is to live life alone, unloved, uncelebrated, and unaware of a God who loves them and desires a relationship with them."
The Williamses are still working on getting their first Kindred Community house furnished. "We have all the soft furniture we need," says Dave, "sofas, mattresses, things like that, but there’s still a lot we could use."
If you’d like to help, here’s a list of what the Williamses still need for the house: pots, pans, plastic food containers, small appliances, bedding/linens for twin-size beds, pillows, a couple of desks, some sturdy dressers, a TV and a DVD player, trash cans, towels and wash cloths, laundry and cleaning supplies, and toiletries. Monetary donations are also welcome and appreciated.