Growing up, we learn the “real world” is our ultimate destination. The things we learn in school, along with the decisions we make, are all propelling us toward a successful or difficult adulthood in the “real world.” Many adults will agree that the “real world” sneaks up more quickly than ever, although jobs, bills and responsibilities seemed so far away as a kid.
Today, there are thousands of young people in the foster care system in Georgia who are on the edge of adulthood but don’t have the support of a stable family to head into the “real world” with the tools needed for success.
Our Transitional and Independent Living Programs (TLP/ILP) exist to change this reality. The Children’s Home dedicates extensive time and resources to offering services and support to those in foster care who are on the verge of entering the “real world.”
We’ve had the privilege of seeing these programs work throughout the years, leading to young people earning degrees, securing jobs and establishing financial stability. Young people like Patrick.
A native of Savannah, Georgia, Patrick started his journey in our TLP program in early 2017 as a reserved and withdrawn 17 year old. Coming from a rough family situation, he lacked direction or purpose, even though it was a time in his life to be focused on graduation from high school and his next step toward college or a job.
“Where I come from, there aren’t too many good people,” Patrick said of his past. “Even if you’re in a place where you have everything you need to survive, if there’s no love, then that’s not the place [to be].”
Patrick began our transitional program with a desire to belong and a dream to succeed, despite his circumstances and hardships. With the help of our supportive, expert staff, Patrick began to set financial and educational goals for himself. While working toward his GED, Patrick also worked his way up to lead cook at Waffle House, learning how to manage time and stay loyal to commitments.
“With more independence, Patrick has learned how to budget better,” said ILP Life Coach Donita Green-Noel. “Now he knows he’s not saving money just for the sake of saving—but he has real responsibilities and necessities to pay for to ensure that he can remain stable and independent.”
As Patrick embraced the importance of being intentional with money, more opportunities opened for him. In November 2017, Patrick moved into his own apartment and took over the lease. Shortly after, he bought his first car.
“UMCH’s program is awesome for people who want to make it,” Patrick says. “You have people on your side and everything you need. After that, it’s really all about your attitude. Any bad situation you’re in, you can get out of it.”
Along with Donita, Patrick says TLP Life Coach Sylvia Oduah has made a huge impact on his journey. Many times, she came alongside Patrick to help him complete tasks that have been essential to his success. Resumes, budgeting, applications, studying—she’s offered guidance through it all. In addition, Patrick says that Donita has frequently lifted him up during hard times with difficult people in his life.
“The most important ingredients in everything are love and support,” said Patrick. “You get that with this program.”
Patrick’s positive and determined attitude have also made a difference in the lives of other youth in the program. “Patrick never falls in with the crowd and stays focused on his goals,” Donita said. “He looks forward to speaking with his peers about his experiences and what he’s learned, passing it forward.”
Last year, our staff selected Patrick to attend a forum in Texas that brings together individuals from across the country who participate in similar transitional programs. Not only was Patrick able to take his first plane ride, he had the opportunity to connect and share stories with others who were on similar paths. Patrick said this opportunity really reminded him to stay focused on his goals and to keep pushing forward every single day.
“I was in a bad situation that I thought I’d never get out of, but I met the people at The Children’s Home who showed me love and that my faith is real,” said Patrick. “No matter the situation that you’re facing, just keep going. Whatever you want to do, wherever you want to go—keep going.”
If you’re interested in volunteering with our Transitional Living Program as a tutor or a variety of other ways, email Volunteer Coordinator Alyson Ackerman at firstname.lastname@example.org.