Spotlight Non-profit: Creating a home and a future for abandoned teens

LatinaLista — There were over 500,000 children in the foster care system in 2006, according to the most recent statistics. Forty-six percent of these children were in non-relative foster family homes.

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In 2006, 289,000 children exited the foster care system. While 53 percent of the children were reunited with family or a caregiver, 9 percent were emancipated. That means that these children “graduated” from the foster care system to the real world — all by themselves.

As any parent knows, it’s rare that any 18-year-old – the age of emancipation – is ready to be completely on their own. A child of the foster care system is even less ready than the average 18-year-old and and because of that too many of these children become homeless literally overnight.

For that reason, Lori Burns created The Teen Project.

THE TEEN PROJECT provides housing, college funding and a sober living curriculum for emancipated foster youth ranging from 16 to 24 years of age. We give these motivated young adults independence, personal and career guidance and family support.

Many of the youth that we serve suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) at rates five times higher than that of US war veterans. Many also have suffered severe child abuse which is also associated with greater risks of substance abuse. Adolescents who are physically abused are 6 to 12 times more likely to have problems with alcohol and drugs, and youth who are sexually abused are 18 to 21 times more likely to abuse substances (Dube et al., 2001). All of these are major factors we consider to effectively help our foster youth succeed and get their lives on track.

In addition to helping the teens get housing, go to school and stay sober, if they have addiction problems, The Teen Project also offers a national online database especially tailored for teens who are already on the streets and need help finding shelter and/or resources. A click on a city brings up those shelters where teens can find refuge.

The TEEN Project gets by on donations and volunteers and has only one full time employee who is funded through a direct grant. With more kids ending up on the streets these days, the need is as critical as ever in providing these teens a healthy and safe alternative to living on the streets unloved, uncared and unprotected.

THE TEEN PROJECT was a created by Lauri Burns in response to her overwhelming feeling that no matter how many teens she fostered, it was never enough. Lauri’s dream has always been that no teen should ever be without a home or a family. Lauri’s vision is very clear that “system” teens will be provided with all of the resources and amenities that “normal” kids have.

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