I’ll never forget a phone call from one of our foster care alumni. He told me he was dropping out of college. I assumed something terrible must’ve happened and asked what was wrong. He said, listen, this place just isn’t for me. One of my professors just told us there is another book to get and its $300 dollars that I don’t have. I can’t do my laundry because I need a credit card to buy a laundry card. It’s too much. It’s just isn’t for me.
Calls like this made us at Graham Windham realize that we had to do something different. We started by listening. Our kids asked us for someone who was just there for them – for the long haul to age 25 — and they told us we should call them coaches. It was so simple. All they wanted was someone to stick by them.
We created our Graham SLAM coaching program with the help of several foundations, the City Council and the Manhattan DA’s office. Our colleagues at other organizations created similar programs. ACS too has launched a host of initiatives to help young people. They are all working. With these programs, high school graduation and college enrollment is up and homelessness is down amongst foster care alumni. None of us have been satisfied, though, as all of the initiatives combined were reaching less than a fifth of the kids who need them.
No more. Thanks to Commissioner Hansell, Councilmember Levin – as well as to their fantastic teams and colleagues – soon all young people will have what they need to succeed. We are thrilled and grateful that the Mayor’s Office, Administration for Children’s Services, City Council, Office of Management and Budget and leading philanthropic Foundations are making this historic first-of-its-kind $10M investment in the supports young people say help them the most. It sends a clear and powerful message that this City hears them, believes in them and will stick by them.
As called for in the NYC Foster Care Taskforce recommendations, we – the hundreds of young people and organizations that make up the Fair Futures coalition — look forward to working with the de Blasio Administration and City Council towards full implementation of Fair Futures to age 26. Foster care should end. A young person’s supportive community should not.
While these investments are significant, they will be dwarfed by the economic and social return. The young man who called…we got the books and the laundry card…he’s in school and currently works serving young people in a NYC-funded community center. He’s finding his way with the support of his family and his coach. He’s a coach too…he coaches girls in basketball. On the side, he mentors kids at our community school. This isn’t a unique story about one special young person. Our kids are hard-working and generous. Investing in their futures – Fair Futures – is the best investment our City can make.
To learn more about Graham Windham and Graham SLAM, visit www.graham-windham.org
President and CEO