Local organization works to support foster children through housing, life skills programs

Published: May. 23, 2023 at 6:30 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - May is National Foster Care Awareness Month and work is underway to expand a local program to offer more help for teens once they age out of foster care.

Gateway Youth Development is a Toledo-based organization providing supervised independent living for teens in foster care and provides a number of different layers of support. One of them is supervised independent living in Toledo for teens between the ages of 14 to 18. The goal is to help continue that work as they enter adulthood.

“Children in foster care are more likely to be homeless, unemployed and not have a high school diploma,” said KaTrice Perry, the executive director. “I wanted to have programs and services in place to help break the cycle. ”

Gateway has two homes in Toledo, one for boys, the other for girls.

“At Gateway, our goal is to serve those who will not have permanent family and prepare them for life on their own,” said Perry. “They learn everything from financial literacy to cooking classes. And you can’t address those things without mental health support. We have all those services in-house.”

The plan is to expand the support for teens once they’ve aged out of foster care.

“From 14 to 18, they are learning the skills and from 18 to 22, they have the opportunity to apply them,” said Perry. “They learn that they have support in place, they know someone has their back along the way.”

The goal is to open transitional independent living next spring.

“We are working to secure funds to renovate a 10-unit apartment building,” said Perry. “We will renovate the space to provide housing for young people between 18 to 22. It will help fill a gap. They are two bedroom units so they can have a roommate, or if they are a parent, they can have a room for their child.”

Life skills training is also available through Gateway for teens not in foster care. Beautiful Gilbert took advantage of the program. She graduated from Whitmer High School last year and now works at a local nursing home and as a cosmetologist. Gilbert also has a one year old son.

I’ve learned everything from budgeting and managing my credit to grocery shopping and being a parent,” said Gilbert. “Now I know I have help from someone outside my family I can call for anything. My mom told me the other day that she is so proud of the woman I have become. I told her it’s because I’ve spent the last few years surrounded by great mentors.”

Gilbert says she eventually wants to be part of providing help to other teens through the Gateway program.

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