Aging Out of Foster Care: Ava Finds Support in Our Mobility Mentoring Program
Ava was a young mother when she came to our Mobility Mentoring program after aging out of foster care, with no family support or connections. Ava was typical of the young adults who age out of foster care: alone and in need of assistance, no car or driver’s license, and few options to escape her circumstances.
That’s when she contacted Mobility Mentoring.
After a few years of working with Tisha Mender, Mobility Mentoring Specialist, Ava had earned her high school diploma and was enrolled in college. She had obtained her driver’s license, bought a car, rented an apartment, was in a healthy relationship with her child’s father, and was modeling positive behaviors for her son. “Ava had been on her own for so long and had to raise herself without a parent, she was not used to having someone to help her so it was hard for her to learn to ask for help,” says Tisha. “The growth I’ve seen in her is remarkable, and although challenges continue to arise in her life, having a supportive connection enables her to better solve problems when crises do occur.”
Mobility Mentoring currently provides intensive supports to 18 young people, ages 18-25, who are aging out of foster care. They begin with weekly meetings and assessments, and the support is based on each individual’s needs, and provides much-needed connections. “Many of the young people feel alone and do not have supportive connections,” says Tisha. Since most of them don’t have stable family bonds, having a dedicated mentor helps immensely. “The feeling of belonging and knowing there are people there for you that you can rely on improves the chances of them accomplishing their goals and having success,” says Tisha.
Mobility Mentoring is a process that takes time and challenges the young person, who determines the goals to be achieved and the pace of progress. Building rapport and trust, known as engagement, is the first step in creating a meaningful relationship with each young person. Once trust is built, the coach works with each young person to learn the skills to help them advocate for themselves so they can achieve their individual goals. Part of the process is the young person learning how they can access resources in the community, which helps them to problem-solve and become economically self-sufficient.
The ultimate goal of Mobility Mentoring is independence, not just financially, but the ability to identify and pursue goals while creating supportive relationships. Mobility Mentoring can last up to five years, allowing the young people to grow and mature, giving them enough time to accomplish their goals while navigating any crises they may encounter. Seemingly small steps are significant: for example, 13 of 20 young people in the program have earned their driver’s licenses, no small achievement considering none of them owned cars or had someone to teach them how to drive until Mobility Mentoring assisted them.
Mobility Mentoring is partnered with Embrella, the New Jersey Foster Care Scholars Program, which provides educational and financial assistance for youth aging out of foster care. This partnership has enabled Mobility Mentoring to reach new scholars connected to Embrella, and allowed the young people to secure a mentor, and the guidance, modeling and supports they need to make their goals achievable.
Having a dedicated mentor has a profound impact on a young person’s life. “Knowing someone is in your corner, someone you can rely on to help when there’s a crisis or even when there’s something positive, makes a difference in people’s lives,” says Tisha.