WPE Welcomes Foster Youth in Style
On Saturday, March 23rd, the Free General Store participated in the Road to the Future: Foster Youth Care Conference by providing a pop-up Mobile Boutique for the young guests. The conference focused on foster youth adolescents and emancipated foster young adults with a special focus on preparing them for entering the job market.
This is the second year that WPE has had the privilege of participating in this event. The Free General Store team provided clothing, shoes, accessories, makeup, and books. During this event, 84 young adults attended the boutique and 1,938 items were distributed.
To brighten smiles even further, this boutique offered an amazing array of apparel and accessories donated by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, with beautiful messaging encouraging us all to build a kinder and braver world. In addition, guests received Sephora cosmetic bags from Project Glimmer, a San Francisco Bay Area non-profit uplifting and empowering the lives of girls and women.
The Boutique ran concurrently with other conference activities and when this was discovered, WPE volunteers brought the clothing racks to the guests and throughout the building - a real MOBILE boutique!
This year we invited volunteers who are similar in age to the foster youth. Many volunteers joined us from the National Charity League along with Ben Weintraub from the Justice Justice Foundation, both major contributors to White Pony Express. The Richmond Police Department sponsored the conference and provided volunteers to assist with staging for our Boutique shopping experience.
We had a chance to chat with guests and adolescent volunteers to learn about the brands and styles they enjoy wearing and we look forward to incorporating this information into our Free General Store programs in the future. At a deeper level, we were particularly touched to be working with foster youth because this is a growing issue in our country.
We are exploring ways to help serve them more throughout the year via our direct distributions and other giveaways.
For more information about the challenges foster youth face, see below.
AGING OUT FOSTER CHILDREN STATISTICS
(Published by National Foster Youth Institute May 2017)
437,500 in America’s foster care system
55% will have had 3 or more placements over their childhood
33% will have changed elementary schools 5 or more times
After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless. (A Contra Costa study found that a third of children aged out will eventually become homeless.)
33% have not had enough food at some point within the past year
1 in 4 will not graduate from high school or be able to pass their GED
Less than 3% chance for these youth to earn a college degree at any point of their lives
7 out of 10 girls who age out of foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21
60% of young men who age out of the foster care system and have been legally emancipated have been convicted of a crime
Some states report nearly 70% of adults in their prisons have been in foster care
1 in 2 will develop a substance dependence
25% will have PTSD from abuse suffered in foster care
Our criminal justice system disproportionately incarcerates former foster youth