About a month ago, I talked about a program that Operation Kids is endorsing and for which it is raising awareness and funding. The Christmas Box Lifestart Initiative is an initative developed by New York Times bestselling author, Richard Paul Evans, in conjunction with his foundation, The Christmas Box International.
Over the last month, we have helped raise nearly $10,000 to help put together Lifestart Kits for youth aging out of foster care. This money will be used to provide nearly 100 youth with the kits – something akin to what you would put together to send with your college-bound child – provide much-needed basic supplies to help these youth make it on their own.
It might sound like a lot, but those 100 youth represent less than half a percent of the approximately 24,000 youth who will age out of foster care this year. Youth who will, in many cases, turn 18 and be on their own. We’re only just making a small dent.
As part of our involvement in the effort, I was asked to sit on the Lifestart Initiative Committee – a group of people representing organizations who are pledging people, resources and time to help make this program successful. Our first meeting was this week. The meeting focused on logistics, planning and decisions on how to best expand the program.
The most memorable portion of the meeting however, came at the beginning, when we were reminded WHY the Christmas Box Lifestart Initiative was so critical. Marianne Brough of Utah’s Youth Mentor Program, shared some statistics with those around the table that were sobering:
6 of 10 youth who leave foster care at 18 will likely be homeless, incarcerated or dead by age 20 (Pew Charitable Trust Report, 2004)
In Utah alone, 37% of youth who age out of the system will end up with a misdemeanor or felony offense by age 20. They have birthrates THREE TIMES that of their peers. Only 1 in 150 will graduate with at least an associates degree by the time they are 20.
These aren’t bad kids. They aren’t setting out to get into trouble, they weren’t placed in the foster system because they were problem kids. They are children of parents who made mistakes – some of them serious – who were placed in the system for their protection. Sadly, many of them have no sense of permanency. Those who age out of the system are more often than not without direction, guidance, love, hope – or even the knowledge of how to survive on their own as an adult.
I am excited to be a part of this great work. I am excited that it is so measurable – sending dollars to a far-away country to help its children is admirable. Being able to be part of a program that has a measureable impact in each state in which it operates is thrilling.
As part of our mission, our responsibility is to see this program through – to make sure your donations reach the youth who need them – in the form of Lifestart Kits and resources.
The holidays are just around the corner. We are launching an initiative to try and help another 100 youth this month. As a reader, you likely have much to be grateful as you gather in a few weeks for Thanksgiving. As you go about your holiday shopping and parties, I would ask that you consider those less fortunate – in your neighborhood, your community, your state, your nation – and share whatever you can.
Even a little makes a big difference to someone who has nothing.
Want to know more about the Christmas Box Lifestart Initiative? Click here.