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New nonprofit plans to open transitional living home for girls aging out of foster care

Source: KXXV Source: KXXV
WACO, TX (KXXV) -

A new nonprofit organization in Waco aims to help young women aging out of the foster-care system.

Refuge Waco Ministries plans to open a transitional living home in downtown Waco that would house 15 to 20 girls. At that center, girls would have programs available that teach them how to be successful long-term with career and life skills training while they go to college.

Refuge Waco Ministries Co-Executive Director Kendall Goodwin, who is also a foster mom, said there are programs to help young adults transition but they are limited. She believes the privately funded facility will help fill in the gaps.

"They age out and overnight have no stable home. Unless they have a friend or are able to couch surf, about 50 percent of them become homeless after a year of aging out,” Goodwin said. “Of the 50 percent many of them are roped into sex work, and human trafficking."

Many young adults age out of the foster care system when they are 18 years of age. They can remain in the system until age 21. The Department of Family and Protective Services provides tools and programs to help children with their transition.

"The state tries to address that by requiring lots of different classes or programs but, unfortunately, those kids have come out of abusive or neglectful homes and they don't know how to parent, how to support themselves, and they need some assistance into transitioning into everyday life," McLennan County 74th District Court Judge Gary Coley said.

Coley, who decides whether children must be removed from their homes, said there is the belief that once children age out of the foster-care system, they should be able to raise a family and get a job because they are adults. However, he said that is not always the case.

"The reality is we removed those kids because they were abused and neglected when they were younger. We took them out of their homes, we put them someplace else and then we assumed because they are chronologically a certain age, and they will be able to support a family, have a job,” Coley said.

He said many of the children who were in foster care come back to the system as they have children of their own.

"Over almost 25 years, I can't tell you how many kids have gone through the system who I see several years later as parents in the system. Unfortunately, I see those parents become grandparents of children who are in our system," he said.

Coley, Waco city councilman Dillon Meek and attorney Robert Callahan joined the group in support as they made the announcement in front of the McLennan County Courthouse. 

Refuge Waco Ministries is raising funds and applying for grants for the transitional living home, which hopes to open within the next 18 months.

If you would like to learn about the group or donate, visit their website or email info@refugewaco.com.

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