For many children in foster care, a forever family means the difference between a life of support and one of tragedy. Fifty percent of foster children who age out of the system upon turning 18 will be homeless, victimized, incarcerated or dead within 2 years and 65 percent of unwed females will be pregnant by age 20, according to data presented before the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee in 2016.
“Children who become part of a forever family go on to enroll in and graduate from college at higher rates than their peers who age out of the system, earn higher incomes as young adults and have lower incidences of drug and alcohol use,” said Sierra Forever Families Director of Development & Public Relations Christie Shorrock. “Everyone benefits when foster children find their forever families.”
A $2,500 grant by the Sundt Foundation helped the Sierra Forever Families’ Wonder Mentoring Program. In the program, kids in foster care are matched one-to-one with caring adults who are committed to enriching their young lives through a year-long journey filled with activities in the arts, nature, sports, volunteer service and more. In many cases, these events are the child’s “firsts,” filled with adventure, excitement and self-discovery. In all instances, the consistent, supportive presence of a Wonder mentor lets kids know someone cares.
“There is an enormous need for Wonder in the Greater Sacramento Region,” said Christie, whose organization serves 12 Northern California counties. “Each of these children would benefit from the consistent, caring presence of a Wonder mentor in their lives, to be there for them, to engage the world with them, to let them know that they are not alone and that someone cares. Because Wonder receives virtually no public funding, it relies predominantly on community partners like the Sundt Foundation for financial support.”
Wonder children often are inspirations to their mentors. Some insist on giving back to those less fortunate.
“(One of the Wonder children) and I were out running errands on a Saturday. When he found out we were going to buy things for people who are homeless this winter, he asked me to turn the car around,” the child’s mentor said. “He wanted to get the money he had been given for Christmas and use it to buy gloves for people without homes. ‘It must get very cold out there on the streets,’ he said.
“That someone so young, who had already endured so much trauma, would think of others brought tears to my eyes. Together, we bought 20 pairs of warm gloves and gave them to Clothing and Food for Everyone (CAFFE). While we were leaving the CAFFE office, he reached in his pocket and offered the director all the change he had left over from our purchases. This beautiful moment will be forever etched in my soul.”
This is part of a series of blogs about the positive impacts made by the Sundt Foundation.