Monday, November 06, 2006

One-stop-shopping for emancipated foster youth

Everyone has their favorite landmark in Texas. What's yours? Big Bend National Park? The Alamo?

After attending the fourth annual "It's My Life" conference, my favorite place in Texas is now the Houston Alumni and Youth (H.A.Y.) Center.

The H.A.Y. Center provides one-stop-shopping for foster youth and alumni, between the ages of 16 to 21.

Services include:
- Mentoring and counseling services, including drug/alcohol abuse counseling
- GED / college preparation courses
- Assistance locating housing
- Advanced job placement training
- A computer lab, mailboxes, voice mail and email

The one-stop-shopping approach is so important. It eliminates gaps in services. It doesn't force people in and from foster care to traverse from one place to another in order to get the help that they need.

In Ohio, where I live, there are 88 counties, each with differing services. One of my first projects for the Foster Care Alumni of America pilot chapter will be to lay the groundwork for a statewide yellow pages, so at least we will know where resources are located and where the gaps in services are for people in and from foster care... I am hoping that FirstLink will agree to partner with us on this effort.

The H.A.Y. Center offers leadership opportunities for foster youth and alumni.
I first met Victor, Xavier and Gabbie at the airport. We were preparing to board a plane, en route from Houston to Seattle. We were on our way to attend the 2006 "It's My Life" conference.

I wish you could have been there to attend H.A.Y. Center's workshop, and to hear the voices of foster care alumni:

Imagine meeting a talented young man named Victor. He once was homeless -- but he is now a talented photographer, constantly honing his skills. Not only has he pulled his own life together, but he is dedicated to helping others.

Meet Xavier, future filmmaker. Hear him share what attracts him to the medium of film. Watch a "short" that he has created. When Xavier shares his experiences from foster care in his films, his approach will be subtle, but his message will resonate.

And, allow me to introduce you to Gabbie. She is gentle, approachable and fun. She grew up in foster care, and now her goal is to make the path easier for others. As such, she is now a Youth Specialist with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

Gabbie is quick to dismiss herself in the light of Victor and Xavier's artistic talents -- but Gabbie's gifts are interpersonal. She has the type of warm and accepting personality that if I ever had a problem, I would feel comfortable sharing it with her.

I plan to post pictures of the three of them soon...

I'd like to extend my thanks to wonderful people like Pamela Walker, Assistant Director of the H.A.Y. Center. It took work to set up collaborations with Harris County Youth Services, Texas Apartment Locators, the Texas Work Commission, DePelchin Children's Center, and so many others in order to make this endeavor a success.

It takes patience and diligence both to establish this kind of center, and to follow-through with everyday operations.

And it takes a certain degree of humility to facilitate alumni and youth leadership in workshops and discussions... taking a step back from being in the limelight, and focusing your efforts to make foster youth and alumni shine!

Kudos to the H.A.Y. Center, my favorite Texas landmark. For more information, please visit:

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Ha. I have never heard of them, but I do remember seeing that building downtown when I was riding the bus to Lakewood church. Sounds pretty neat!
You should definitely meet the three of them!

Please let me know and I will set it up!

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