There is a trend in Texas of kids who are close to graduation needing placement. Foster homes typically take younger children, and there are very few placement options for older teens from CPS. For many teens, their choices are limited to being placed far from home or leaving care altogether. The Children's Home intentionally advocates for these kids.
It has long been reported that kids who leave care early are singularly unsuccessful: a high percentage don't finish high school, many become homeless and a large number end up in correctional facilities, often because they resort to doing whatever they can to survive.
These young people at 17 and 18 are kids. While they may feel ready to tackle the world, there is a huge gap of knowledge and much they still need help with. For those who remain in a place with structure and support, the success rate increases dramatically.
We have nine young people at The Children's Home who will be seniors next year: nine kids that we're excited to walk with through graduation and continue to be family afterwards. Regardless of how equipped they are when they come to us or how long we get to be a part of their lives, we want them to have the tools they need to be successful when they leave, and we want to continue to be there for them when they need us.
James* is one of our older teens. A lifetime of living in an unhealthy family situation culminated early last fall in a decision to leave his home permanently at age 17. After a time of living on the streets, someone at the Salvation Army connected James to CPS, who found a short-term place for him at Catholic Charities Emergency Youth Shelter. While there, James began classes required by CPS for teens and made friends with kids from The Children's Home. "They told me it was a great place to live – that the people here really care about you and help you out. it's not just a job for them."
James decided The Children's Home was the place for him. His caseworker agreed, but it seemed to James to be taking too long to happen. "I was getting impatient. I didn't want to have to leave Amarillo and start over again."
He decided to take matters into his own hands. James began calling The Children's Home posing as a caseworker asking for a placement meeting for a teen. When his scheme was discovered, there were some after-effects, but he did get his placement meeting, and now he is thriving here at The Children's Home.
James has always felt like he had purpose in life. Well-liked, he has a good reputation at school and in the community. He's driven and takes initiative, but even with all that potential and drive, James knows it would have been an extremely difficult and lonely struggle to try to make it on his own. Now he doesn't have to – we're fighting that battle with him. Just like we'll battle alongside every single one of our kids.
"How has it made a difference to be at The Children's Home? Just having a roof and food to eat every day – that's a real blessing. And houseparents to look to for guidance instead of trying to figure it all out on my own... I know how it feels to be homeless – it takes a lot just to get up each day... then to try to go make something of yourself – it's hard. Here, instead of just trying to survive, you can do something with your life.
They meet your physical needs, but more than that. They are trying to see you all the way through – they really want to help you be the best person you can be. They're actually trying to be a family.
When you have to live like a piece of paperwork (like at a shelter or on the streets), it can steal a lot of your value. You feel like no one will ever care. To erase that mentality from someone can change their whole emotional drive and their state of mind. Now, instead of just living for me and only me, I can care about others. If these people care for me when I can't do anything for them in return, then they truly care.
This place captures the spirit of the Gospel, and it just keeps spreading and spreading and ultimately makes the world a better place." - James, age 17