FERNDALE, AR – Hundreds of kids in Arkansas are in DHS custody. They are kids of the state, and like everyone, when they reach a certain age, they must live life on their own.
DHS said once the teens turn 14 they most likely won’t be adopted, so they need to learn more about the next step. When they reach 18-21 years old, they start exiting out of the program.
“It’s frightening to a certain extent,” Nicola Stiles, 19, said, “When you age out, you don’t have that secure backbone. You don’t have the people you can call like caseworkers or secondary workers.”
At an annual Youth Advisory Board workshop they are learning life skills, like balancing a budget, going to classes that will teach them how drive and even simulating life on their own.
“We’re connecting them with people who can further them in their life in some of the decisions they need to make,” Cecile Blucker, DHS division of children and family services director, said.
Foster teens are going from relying on the state to paying their rent, insurance and figuring out their next steps.
“Everyone doesn’t know everything,” Stiles said.
As they exit foster care, DHS hopes this workshop will help them succeed as they enter adulthood.
This program is teen organized. A board of 11 young adults in DHS custody put the entire thing together. They also give DHS advice about how to make the program better.