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Friday, February 17, 2012

Throwback Thursday: What Do Former Convicts & Foster Girls Have in Common?

Emancipation Does Not Always Lead to Freedom
Thought for the day: Today is Independence Day & for Throwback Thursday I'm bringing back & have updated an post from February 17, 2012: What Do Former Convicts & Foster Girls Have in Common? For those of us who take freedom for granted & expect others to thrive in our liberated society, this post may open your eyes to a different world where emancipation does not always lead to freedom.

It is sad to realize that former convicts & emancipated foster girls have anything in common,  but they do. They are both at high high risk for homelessness & incarceration within a year of emancipation. (Seven out of 10 foster youth will be homeless; 6 out of ten will be incarcerated within 1 year of emancipation. Twelve percent of formerly incarcerated persons end up homeless after being released from prison; 30% return to jail within a year. ) They also both tend to have histories of sexual & physical abuse in their childhood. (Half of the girls in foster care have been physically &/or sexually abused.  One in 20 men & 1 in 4 women in state prisons report that they were sexually abused before the age of 18. One in 10 men & 1 in 4 women in state prisons report that they were physically abused as children.) Clearly, our society is not helping either of these groups enough to insure that they become productive members of society once they are "emancipated" from jail or faster care. Read on to see how theses statistics can be turned around.

The ex-convicts in the Boaz & Ruth (Richmond VA) programs & foster girls chosen to take part in the HerShe Group (Los Angeles) have some positive things in common as well. These two organizations are changing the odds for their participants. Sixty-four percent of Boaz & Ruth's graduates have jobs after graduation from their program & 75% are still employed a year later. The graduates of Boaz & Ruth have reduced recidivism from 30% to 12%. HerShe's mentoring program is preparing girls in foster care for emancipation & helping them transition to college & jobs in the adult world. Clearly, these programs are teaching their participants ways to enhance their Dream Quotients (DQ) in both the ability to persevere despite physical or emotional challenges & the increasing their ability to adapt to life transitions. The other thing they have in common is that both programs are featured in & benefit from The Wake Up And Dream Challenge.

Life transitions are hard for everyone, but some people have developed the ability to adapt to transitions better than others. Life transitions can be stumbling blocks or opportunities depending on how you approach them. In my book, I examined the traits that seem to differentiate those who stumble from those who embrace the opportunities within a transition. Having made successful transitions earlier in life prepare us for the transitions we will face throughout life.

Overcoming a move to a new school, a parent being unemployed, a divorce or death of a family member during childhood can be traumatic or they can strengthen children & prepare for life's challenges in adulthood. For the latter to occur, some adults may also need to be supported through the transitions. In The Wake Up And Dream Challenge, I show how clients, faced with life transitions, reevaluated their dreams. The examples I give include a woman who lost her identity while supporting her husband & child's dreams, a man who struggled with a sudden change of direction when he neared graduation from college & a woman who had no idea how she could survive when she lost child support when her children reached adulthood. With therapy & the use of the Dream Positioning System (DPS), they were able to redirect their lives. If they grew up with positive role models who encouraged them & supported them through transitions, with minimal help in therapy, they were able to move on with their lives.

 Foster care children have multiple transitions throughout their childhoods. Foster youth in the system for 4 years or more have lived in 47 different homes. Unfortunately, often these transitions are not successful. Instead of being opportunities to strengthen the child & prepare them for life, they lead to a sense of insecurity & fear of failure when faced with emancipation at age 18. Most children from healthy families have some difficulty transitioning to college & adulthood. The transition for kids leaving foster care is much more challenging. Foster kids need additional supports to learn ways to transition to a healthier adulthood. Twenty percent of the nation's foster care children reside in the state of California & there is a disproportionate number of females in & impacted negatively by the system. The HerShe Group offers girls in foster care a year long mentoring program to prepare for the transition to emancipation. They are helping them succeed & venture into college programs rather than homelessness & incarceration.

Boaz & Ruth helps with another life transition that many of us never think about: emancipation after incarceration.  Boaz & Ruth ’s mission is to rebuild lives & communities through relationships, transitional jobs, & economic revitalization. Although most of Boaz & Ruth participants & graduates have a history of incarceration, they now successfully operate 5 social enterprises & have renovated a dozen dilapidated or abandoned buildings in the Highland Park area of Downtown Richmond VA. Eight of those buildings now provide affordable housing for nearly 40 men & women.

One of those graduates is Donna Scaturro. When Donna eventually graduated from Boaz & Ruth, it was on her 3rd determined try in the program. In a year’s time she remained in recovery from substance abuse, received her drivers’ license, purchased a car & had her voting rights restored in time for the 2008 Presidential election. When asked why she believed she succeeded at Boaz & Ruth on the third try, Donna explained, “I’ve learned resilience. I’ve learned not to give up. My return was never as I imagined, but I was always welcomed back with love & hopefulness. They really wanted me to succeed.”

Both of these organizations are transforming lives & beating the odds stacked against the populations they serve.  They are helping people reach their dreams & therefore they were chosen to be included to be in The Wake Up & Dream Challenge. You can learn more about their work & support their efforts. To purchase the e-book version on & contribute to Boaz & Ruth click here. To purchase the book & contribute to HerShe click here.

Have a wonderful 4th of July!

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