I am excited about the Plaque Ceremony we will hold tomorrow, February 20, 2012, to thank and honor those who have made significant contributions to the Allen Career Center on our Ruston campus. The Allen Career Center is an incredible, state-of-the-art, career education facility which is meeting a desperate need. We provide career education to foster children who are nearing the time when they “age out” of the foster care system.
Aging out of foster care is often a bitter end to a difficult childhood. Foster children typically enter young adulthood with no career experience and little family support.
In contrast, I still have not “aged out” of my biological family’s care system. At 49 I am still strongly connected to my family of origin. When I “launched”, I attended college with the financial support of my parents. When I needed a place to regroup and recoup because life taught me a few difficult lessons, I was able to crash at home and lick my wounds. My father, mother, sister, grandparents, family friends, church family, etc. were on my side as I wandered into adulthood.
Children who age out of foster care have a very different experience of early adulthood. The outcomes of former foster youth during their transition into adulthood are disheartening. One study found that 37% of foster youth aged 17–20 had not completed a high school degree or received a GED. The Child Welfare League of America reports that as many as 36% of foster youth who have aged out of the child welfare system become homeless, 56% become unemployed, and 27% of male former foster youth are jailed.
In addition to our Life Skills Training Center and Transitional Living Program, the Allen Career Center is one of our efforts to help foster care children avoid homelessness, unemployment and prison.
The John H. Allen Vocational Training and Career Center offers youth opportunities to receive cutting-edge training in four areas of concentration: Barbering, NCCER Carpentry, State-issued G.E.D. and NCCER Welding. Highly-certified Career and Technical Educators instruct job readiness classes, computer-aided remediation of core skills (math, reading, grammar), and coordinate an active intern program with community business and industry leaders. These avenues give students opportunities to use their skills in a real workplace which offers more realistic goals for immediate of future employment. Often, teens are able to complete their training as they “age out” of the foster care system and are immediately employed by the construction firms who have partnered with us to serve as internship sites.
Compared to the positive outcomes for our residents who now enter young adulthood with career skills and independent living resources in their tool kits, our Plaque Ceremony tomorrow is a small way to say, “Thank You!”, to a group of individuals who supported the construction and furnishing of the Allen Career Center.