The Junior League of Columbus’ new Signature Project, Bridging the G.A.P. (Guide. Advocate. Provide.), supports youth aging out of the foster care system.
When kids in foster care turn 18, they are no longer part of the foster care system, and many find themselves living alone, without the support, resources, and guidance of a stable family or other caring adults in their lives. Each year in Ohio alone, close to 1,000 youth transition out of the foster care system. The Junior League of Columbus is working diligently to find ways to guide, advocate, and provide for our local youth in need.
Project Guide delivers two types of crucial developmental opportunities for young adults: life skills education and enrichment workshops. These focus areas for Project Guide were developed based on input from community partners, such as Franklin County Children’s Services, Huckleberry House, and Star House (Carol Stewart Village).
The JLC partners with Franklin County Children’s Services three times a year to teach a 10-week life skills program to young adults in foster care who are graduating from high school. Class topics range from personal finance to rental housing to interview skills, and aim to prepare participants for independent living. JLC members with relevant experience teach or co-teach these classes.
Through Project Guide’s enrichment workshops, the JLC guides young adults by providing opportunities for positive interactions and developing new skills or hobbies. Workshops vary based on youth interests and the knowledge areas of JLC members, and cover topics such as self defense, cooking, fitness, or crafting. Currently held at least six times a year, these experiences promote self-care and community building and offer a meal or snack.
Project Advocate focuses on educating JLC members and the community about transitional-age foster youth, as well as partnering with other organizations to back related legislative initiatives.
This May, during National Foster Care Month, Project Advocate will anniversary its social media campaign, Fostering Change by Bridging the G.A.P, which reached nearly 30,000 people in May 2021. This campaign’s goal is to raise awareness for, increase support of, and encourage engagement with young adults aging out of the foster care system. Also as part of this campaign, the JLC unveiled an advocacy toolkit, sponsored a work-attire clothing drive, and shared social media posts to educate the community and highlight local organizations that support the foster care community. This league year, the JLC is creating educational social media posts on a monthly basis.
Last year, JLC members also advocated for a new bill that established a Youth Ombudsman’s office, helping amplify the voices of young people in the child welfare system and allowing them to advocate for themselves and their future. This year, the JLC continues to partner with organizations like Foster ACTION Ohio to lend support to legislative priorities, such as a tuition waiver program for college students with prior experience in foster care.
Through Project Provide, the JLC provides youth aging out of foster care with household necessities as they transition to independent living. The JLC is a partner to Carol Stewart Village, a 105-unit development offering affordable, long-term housing to youth ages 18-24 who are homeless or have aged out of the foster care system. JLC members helped outfit each new resident’s apartment, ensuring these young adults’ basic needs were met as they gained housing stability. Also a part of Project Provide, the JLC partners with Franklin County Children Services to support youth aging out of foster care with basic necessities such as suitcases, toolkits, and/or household supplies.