By Nicole Chavez, ABC News Channel 10, Apr 22, 2009, SACRAMENTO, CA -
As the economy worsens, the demand on the foster care system grows, according to local foster care officials. "That means more foster kids who turn 18 are being forced out on their own," said Charlene Crooks, a foster youth advocate and public relations representative with The Event Foundation, a non-profit aiming to raise awareness of youth programs.
"Alot of people are talking about the homeless situation in Sacramento and you need to focus on the fact that part of that population are youth," she added. In fact, Crooks said more than 400 teens will age out of the Sacramento County foster care system this year alone and the number is growing every year. "I would say more than half of the youth end up on the streets, incarcerated, unemployed," she said. "If we don't step up to help them now, then who will?"
In response to the demand on services that help emancipated youth transition out of the foster care system, such as Casey Family Programs and The Event Foundation, a Gala fundraiser will be held Friday, May 1.
"The goal is to raise money to sponser at least 50 emancipated youth," said Crooks. Princess Rehman is one of those newly emancipated. "It was scary," she said of facing her first day as an 18-year-old. "I didn't receive anything but one garbage bag full of clothes and I had to leave all the rest of the clothes at my last foster home," she described.
She was only four when her brother and three sisters were placed in foster homes after their mother could no longer take care of them. "I struggled with low self-esteem for a long time because I always dreamed about having a normal life, you know, mom coming home and asking 'hey, how's your day at school?'" said Rehman. "I had to learn to let that go and accept the fact that I'm a foster child and my life is the way it is and I'm still going to make it regardless," she added. It was that attitude and tenacity that has helped Rehman perservere. "Luckily I asked around and found services out there to help me," she said. "I was able to go to college and receive grants and scholarships." Rehman is now a student at Sacramento City College and dreams of becoming a social worker. She's already giving back as a youth counselor for P.A.U.S.E., a support group for emancipated youth.
"It's more important than ever to support services that are helping teens like me," said Rehman. "It's so hard since this is all we have, no parents to help us out." If you'd like to help emancipated youth by participating in the "Affair To Remember Gala," click here. The event will begin at 7 p.m. on May 1 at Sacramento's Radisson Hotel. Pre-event tickets are $45 per person, $65 at the door. If you're facing emancipation and need support, call P.A.U.S.E. at (916) 874-9308.
Original article, ABC News Channel 10, retrieved on April 22, 2009