Without intervention, the statistics on young adults aging out of the foster care system in Louisiana aren’t very hopeful:
- 25 percent will become homeless
- Fewer than half have graduated from high school
- Fewer than three percent will earn a college degree
- More than 80 percent are unable to financially support themselves
- More than 70 percent of female foster youth will become pregnant by age 21
Louisiana recently raised the age at which young people have to age out care. Still, though, those who age out of care care without a group of caring adults to help them navigate life are more likely to be incarcerated, have twice the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder than combat veterans and are significantly more likely to be victims of human sex trafficking.
James Samaritan, led by Angel Award honoree Kim Winston Bigler, has been instrumental in bringing the Open Table initiative to Louisiana to create a different outcome for our children. Led by the belief that foster children are the community’s responsibility, the Open Table program pairs transitioning young adults with an ad hoc family – people from the community who come together to walk with that young person as they transition out of foster care.
Each member of the assembled family helps the young adult navigate a particular issue – transportation, education, work, housing, finances, health, spiritual life and more.
Having a family to back them up makes a dramatic difference in the lives of young people. Of those who have an Open Table family:
- 85 percent have a better job or are enrolled in higher education
- 85 percent have the skills needed to get through problem and crises better than before
- 95 percent say they are self-supporting or confident that they will be self-supporting in the future
These statistics are a dramatic change from the norm and illustrate what we often talk about associated the Angel Awards – individuals who see a problem and lean in to solve it can make an amazing difference for kids. The Open Table initiative is poised to grow across the state over the next few years. Take a look at the video – we are excited for James Samaritan’s progress and what it can mean in changing the game for our state’s foster kids!
– Michael Tipton
President, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation
Head of Community Relations
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