Children’s Home Society
Nonprofit charity spotlight
For most teenagers, hitting 18 is a joyful milestone that brings greater independence – especially from Mom and Dad. But for teens in the foster-care system, turning 18 means “aging out” – being forced out of the system and into independence without a safety net. These 18-year-olds are completely on their own – without adult guidance and support – forced to find food, housing, employment and a future. It’s an oft-repeated story, one rarely with a good outcome, but Children’s Home Society of Virginia is trying to change that through a new joint program aimed at Giving Back to those teens in need.
The Possibilities Project – launched after a year of research – began serving teens in March 2016. The program, a joint project between Children’s Home Society and the Better Housing Coalition, provides housing and support programs to kids who have aged out of Virginia’s foster care system – that’s 500 teens annually.
“The goal of the Possibilities Project is to help these kids become productive members of society through life-skills training and stability and give them permanent relationships,” explains Bruin Richardson, Chief Advancement Officer at CHS. “Your own kids have everything. Think about these kids who got into foster care due to no fault of their own, who bounced from foster-care home to foster-care home, and then when they hit 18, they’re on their own. Is it any shock one in four end up in jail?” Richardson asks.
In the past 15 months, this unique housing and support program has served 16 teenagers. According to Richardson, the typical age for those entering the program is 19 to 24 years old. “They need stability and support, and if we provide that, then they can accomplish their hopes and dreams.” One recent Possibilities Project teen who is highlighted on the CHS website says, “This allows me to see that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
VOLUNTEERING AS A MENTOR
Boomers wanting to help light the way for these teenagers should consider volunteering as a mentor.
But being a CHS Possibilities Project mentor isn’t a once-a-week, put-in-a-few-volunteer-hours type of position. Richardson says they’re looking for mentors who are open to being a part of relationships. “It takes someone who has patience and time. Someone who is willing to be in it for the long haul. This may be a lifelong relationship with this young person.”
An orientation and application is required for all CHS volunteers.
OTHER WAYS CHS HELPS
In addition to the Possibilities Project, CHS builds strong, permanent families and lifelong relationships for Virginia’s at-risk children through infant and foster-care adoption as well as post-adoption programs. In fact, Children’s Home Society’s chief executive officer, Nadine Marsh-Carter, is a CHS adoptive parent. Her daughter and son are among the 13,000 children the organization has helped place into safe and permanent homes during its 116-year history.
If you need a bit more information before Giving Back to CHS, consider the impact you’ll make. For Richardson, who is a lawyer and joined CHS within the past year, the impact is life-changing. “You can truly change a life. You can change the trajectory of someone’s life by volunteering.”
For a full listing of opportunities, including life-skills trainers and Kids Club chaperones, visit the website at CHSVA.org.
WANT TO VOLUNTEER?
These worthy organizations need your help.
CHILDREN’S HOME SOCIETY
HOW IT HELPS: Builds permanent families and lifelong relationships for Virginia’s at-risk children.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Volunteer as a Possibilities Project mentor or life-skills trainer, a Kid’s Club chaperone or an event volunteer. Donate needed items on the Wish List detailed on the website.
CONTACT: Visit the website or contact Lauren Weidner, outreach and training specialist, at 804-353-0191, ext. 330, or Lauren@CHSVA.org.
BETTER HOUSING COALITION
HOW IT HELPS: Creates high-quality homes for residents of modest means and empowers them with programs and tools to help them grow to their full potential.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Individual and group volunteer activities include property beautification and administrative duties, serving as a BHC social media ambassador, and encouraging young professionals to join the Better Housing Coalition Young Professionals (BHCyp) for BHC service projects.
CONTACT: Visit website or contact Stacie Birchett, director of communications, at 804-644-0546, x117, or S.Birchett@BetterHousingCoalition.org.
CURE ALZHEIMER’S FUND
HOW IT HELPS: Funds research with the highest probability of preventing, slowing or reversing Alzheimer’s disease.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Honor a loved one by making a financial gift in their memory or attend one of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund fundraising events.
CONTACT: Visit websites or contact Emily Hovis at 804-937-0757 or Emily.B.Hovis@gmail.com.
Lisa Schaffner, a former WRIC-TV anchor, is public relations and marketing director for UNOS, United Network for Organ Sharing. You can contact her at LisaSchaffner@verizon.net.
Editor’s note: since this article was published, David Carter, Jr. passed away on July 30, 2017.