PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — There is a new initiative to make sure foster kids don’t fall through the cracks.
When children turn 18 years old, they’re out of the foster care system — the new program is working to change that.
The program is called the “Foster Youth to Independence” initiative, or “FYI.” It was created by a group of foster care teens who worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD.
Under the program, HUD is giving Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority more than $113,000 to help 14 teens pay their rent.
Imagine being part of the foster care system for years, only to turn 18 years old and have nowhere to go. That’s the reality for an estimated 5,000 young men and women across the country.
The goal of the program is to create a safety net for teens who phased out of the foster system because of their age and have nowhere to go. It’s an issue that many people don’t think about, unless it affects them.
“It’s really like a downward spiral, you don’t know nothing, like about adulthood and you’re going to be stuck,” said 18-year-old McKale Faulks.
Faulks started in the foster care system when she was three and was then sent out on her own when she turned 18. Thanks to this new program, she has a steady roof over her head.
“I’m grateful because now I don’t have to worry about laying my head somewhere or a place to eat, a place to live,” Faulks said.
“A group met with Secretary [Ben] Carson and then within four months, this came about,” Joe DeFelice, HUD regional administrator, said.
DeFelice says the program provides a safety net for these teens and helps them increase their self-sufficiency.
“Get them the help they need, get them in a job corps, start careers, figure out ways up and out of supportive housing so we can fill the backlog in other ways,” he said.
“It means a lot, they help me out a lot. Shoot, if it weren’t for them, I’d be doing bad right now. I’d probably be homeless,” Cameron Jeffers, another recipient, said.
Jeffers says the FYI program changes everything for him and his family.
“With the program being in place, that will help me get myself together, find a better job and to be more of an adult than I am now,” said Jeffers.
This program helps teens get on their feet and stay there.
The FYI program is also in Newport News and Virginia Beach. PRHA will decide which teens get the funding in Portsmouth.