PATH North Dakota Supports Success with the Independent Living Program
For more than 25 years, PATH ND has worked throughout North Dakota with the mission to change the course of children’s lives by stabilizing families and strengthening mental health. As the benefiting partner for the 20th-annual RDO Caters Taters event, PATH North Dakota will utilize proceeds from the event to support its Independent Living Program (ILP), which serves youth who are approaching or who have reached the age of majority and are aging out of foster care. The Problem Despite reaching the age of legal adulthood, youth who leave foster care without a permanent connection to a family are more likely to become homeless, be on public assistance, be incarcerated, or develop substance dependence than youth with family support. Elizabeth, a former foster youth, recalls the uncertainty and fear she felt upon aging out of the foster care system. “Coming from a background of not having a supportive family, or many people that even genuinely cared about me or my future, I was scared to even have dreams,” she said. “I was scared to fail when I was all alone, when there was nobody to help pick up the pieces if it all fell apart.” The statistics behind children who age out of foster care are nothing short of dire: * More than 23,000 children age out of the U.S. foster care system every year. * Forty percent of the youth aging out of foster care in North Dakota will be homeless by age 21. Of these, one-third will experience incarceration. * Roughly half of all children who grow up in foster care receive a high school diploma. * Despite the challenges and statistics, 70% of foster kids hold aspirations to attend college. * Only half of all foster kids who age out of the system find some form of gainful employment by the age of 24. The Solution The ILP provides education and assistance in areas such as crisis management, employment, housing, meal prep, money management, safety, study skills, and much more. The program is designed to support the specific needs and goals of each individual participant on the path to independence: * Each youth is assigned an Independent Living Worker who works one-on-one to help set, pursue, and achieve goals, from locating housing to finishing high school or completing a GED. * Monthly youth group meetings feature different topics and experts from around the community who provide information needed to be successful in adulthood. * The ILP serves as a safety net for young adults venturing out on their own for the first time. If housing, employment, or financial situations become dire, Independent Living Workers are available to help provide the stability needed to make positive changes. * Independent Living Workers help in smaller ways, too, such as assisting former foster youths in utilizing the resources available specifically to them, like Educational and Training Vouchers and Flex Funds for general use and room/board. * In 2018, PATH North Dakota served 468 youth aged 16-18 through the ILP. For Elizabeth, the support she found in the ILP made a world of difference, allowing her to see that it was worth believing in herself, no matter what. “The first time we met, my Independent Living Worker sat down with me and said, ‘Elizabeth when I see you, I see a diamond. You have what It takes to be everything you could imagine,’” she said. “Those words changed my life in seconds.” Every cent raised at the 20th-annual RDO Caters Taters for Charity event will go directly to PATH North Dakota and the Independent Living Program to help young adults like Elizabeth find a successful path to independence and adulthood. --- Join us for RDO Caters Taters for Charity, Tuesday, November 26 from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Fargo. 100% of proceeds benefit PATH ND. See event photos and special updates by following RDO Caters Taters on Facebook and Instagram .
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