Friday, August 17, 2012

Together We Rise

While I always like to share great causes and motivation messages here, this one is especially important - this Fall, I will be interning with an organization dedicated to improving the lives of youth in foster care, Together We Rise. Since you will likely hear much about them - and maybe a few calls for help - over the next few months, I thought I’d give you some information about the organization and what we do.

Who is Together We Rise?

Together We Rise is a registered non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of foster children, and those transferring out of foster care, throughout America. Based in Chino and Chino Hills California, the organization is comprised entirely of passionate young adults ranging from office interns from local universities to high school and college interns located across the country.

Who do we help? 

Together We Rise helps children in the foster care system that may be dealing with confusing and unstable environments. TWR seeks to provide a sense of normalcy and belonging amongst these circumstances. TWR’s Aging Out program also provides help and resources to older children who are leaving the foster care system.

How do we help?

Together We Rise seeks to help children of all age groups through programs such as sports camp, music and art.  The organization currently hosts six different projects, including:

Build-A-Bike Tour… is an annual summer tour that helps fight childhood obesity by providing brand-new bikes to group care facilities across the country.

Sweet Cases…  is a program that provides basic necessities to foster children who often move through three different placements with little to no warning.

REACH… stands for “Realizing Every Action Creates Hope” and is an initiative designed to help create equal educational opportunities for children in foster care with the hope that this effort will break the cycle of homelessness while increasing graduation rates.

Symphony of Hope… is a program that enables foster youth to play instruments at no cost to their agency or foster family. This is important because research has shown that kids who become involved with art and music programs graduate at higher rates than those who do not participate. With half of high school foster youth dropping out before senior year, this type of involvement is even more important.

Field of Dreams… helps to fight childhood obesity by creating sports camps with complete equipment, professional athletes, and DJs.

I’m Aging Out… is a program geared toward older foster youth who will be leaving the foster care system. 2 of 3 foster children will become homeless or incarcerated within 2 years of turning 18. I’m Aging Out provides a website of information to help prevent this. Some resources offered include how to build a resume, how to find transitional housing, how to obtain medical records, and more.

Perhaps the best question to ask though is, why is this important?

Even with it’s tiny population (of just over one million residents), Montana has 1,639 children in foster care, with only 192 adopted per year. In addition, nearly 6,700 children are being raised by their grandparents.

A quick look at the statistics will tell you what is wrong with this picture:
  • Youth in foster care are 44% less likely to graduate from high school. 
  • After reaching the age of 18, 40 – 50% of foster youth fail to graduate. 
  •  Less than 50% of former foster youth are employed. 
  •  80% of the U.S. Prison Population was once in foster care. 
  •  2/3rds of children who age out of the foster care system will die, become homeless, or go to jail within a year of turning 18. 27% of the homeless population was once in foster care. 
  • Girls in foster care are six times more likely to have children by age 21. 
  •  60% of women who age out of foster care become mothers within 2.5 – 4 years after leaving care. 

When a child is removed from their home, the foster care system becomes responsible for reuniting the child with family or finding a new permanent home by means of adoption. When children age out of the foster system at 18, this important goal has not been met - and in Montana, 84 children aged out of the system last year. Unfortunately, while in the foster care system, children are not taught or prepared on how to be adults after reaching the age of emancipation. Often, these children pass through the system without making lasting connections with the adults in their lives. Then, these youth are expected to finish their education, find employment and maintain housing on their own after reaching the age of 18. While I face the prospect of moving out on my own, finding a full time job and buying a professional wardrobe and new car, I do it with the love and support of my boyfriend, my friends, my siblings, my extended family and perhaps most importantly, both of my parts. Even with this encouragement, this isn’t an easy prospect - the thought of facing it without help is overwhelming, and that is why I’ve stepped up to help.

Over the next few months, I’m going to ask for your help too.

In the meantime, you can get involved by sharing this post with friends, promoting the mission of Together We Rise or liking us on Facebook, today. Plus, you can keep your fingers crossed for our founder, Danny Mendoza, who is a finalist for VH1’s Do Something! Awards which will air this Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT. You can also click here to vote over the next two days. While chilling with Beyonce is a pretty great reward in and of itself, imagine the work that can be done with a $100,000 grant!

photo courtesy of VH1

If you are a fellow blogger who would like to join in on advertising my fundraising efforts,
or a shop owner who would like to donate an item to be auctioned off, please get in touch.

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