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Atlanta-Area Program Bridges Foster Care Age Outs Into Adulthood

DOUGLASVILLE, GA. (CW69 News at 10) -- An alarming number of young people are aging out of the foster care system without the resources to live on their own. A local program is expanding its services to provide them with a bridge into adulthood.

Family issues forced Reagan Dodson into foster care. She aged out of the system nearly three years ago, when she turned 18, leaving her anxious about the future. "I was just really looking forward to having someone show me adulting skills," Reagan said.

Reagan says the Youth Villages LifeSet Program helped her transition from foster care into adulthood. The University of Tennessee junior now has her own apartment, which she shares with her sister in Knoxville. "I know that I absolutely could not have gotten here without all of the help from them," she said.

"We're teaching them and helping empower them and helping empower them on their educational goals, we're working with them on their housing goals, employment and career, just basic life skills," said Jameta Wheeler, the assistant director for Youth Village's Intercept and LifeSet Programs.

Staff members at the Douglasville location say over 25,000 young people are aging out of foster care around the country, 700 of them are here in Georgia and those numbers are growing. "These are the people that are falling through the cracks and don't have the help that they need," Wheeler said. "They're at a high risk for homelessness. They're at a high risk for not completing their education earlier, being pregnant earlier."

A five-year study conducted by MDRC, formerly known as Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation, shows the program is reducing those risks. Youth Villages is expanding it in the Atlanta area, hoping to make an even bigger impact.

"We're meeting them in the community wherever they are so we can help them meet their needs," said Wheeler.

Reagan says LifeSet allowed her to study abroad in Spain and inspired her to major in Social Work. "I definitely want to use what I've gone through to give back and help others that are going through the same thing," she said.


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