Imagine leaving home at the age of 18 with little or no family support, few resources and minimal skills. Imagine the challenges and uncertainties you would face as you tried to navigate adult life on your own. Every year this is a reality for thousands of youth.
Each year over 24,000 youths age out of the foster care system in America. These are teens that were never adopted or able to return to the homes they were removed from due to abuse, neglect and abandonment. Many of these youth leave foster care as young as 18 years old. They are faced with almost insurmountable challenges as they try to navigate the difficulties of adulthood, including incarceration, substance abuse, teen pregnancy, mental illness, poverty, homelessness and suicide. With no one to help them, many of them return to abusive situations or end up homeless on the streets.
The Christmas Box International along with Operation Kids has come up with a 4-phase plan to involve the community in helping these youths.
Phase 1. Provide Christmas Box Lifestart Kits to each youth as they leave foster care. These kits include simple but vital things youths need to start their transition to adulthood. The kits are assembled in large plastic tubs and include items such as dinnerware, cooking utensils, a first aid kit, bed sheets, a pillow, a tool kit, towels and more.
Phase 2. Engage communities in helping youth and children who are abused, neglected and abandoned by creating “Christmas Box Rooms” in their own areas. Along with sharing Lifestart Kits in each state, we will assist states to build area-specific resources in their own communities. A Christmas Box Room will consist of a room or space supported by community members and agencies that will be used to collect, store and provide items needed by youth and children who are at risk in that area.
Phase 3. Assist in connecting a volunteer mentor to each of these youths. A mentor could consist of an individual or a family. This will be the most challenging of our goals but will eventually accomplish the most good.
Phase 4. Provide an information resource line and internet site to help these youth not only in crisis situations, but also in finding the many resources available to them, including housing, education and employment.