Group of Women Ride 40-Miles to Raise Awareness for Foster Kids
“It just seems like there is so much more we can do,” says Joanna Birchfield, a social worker at a dialysis center who, outside of her full time job, has been fostering children for the past year. Joanna is in the process of starting her first fundraiser in support of a local foster and adopt agency, Covenant Kids. The event, a 40-mile bike ride, will take place in April. Her particular concern is raising money for older children to find homes.
“It blows my mind to think that there are kids out there whose families aren’t there to step up for them. It’s worse for older children who age out of the system and don’t have anyone in their life for simple things like Thanksgiving dinner, or someone to call when they get a flat tire.”
Any child that turns 18 before they are adopted by a forever family is considered to have “aged out” of the system. It is possible for these kids to apply for an extension and continue to look for a family until they are 21, but they must meet certain regulations which include being enrolled in school or working a minimum number of hours. Statistics for kids who never find a family are hard to swallow.
An estimated 40-63 percent of kids who age out of the system will not complete high school. Up to 55 percent of children without families will remain unemployed and of those who are employed, most will remain below the poverty level. Around 40 percent will face financial hardship, 42 percent will be arrested, and up to 60 percent of young women will become pregnant within 12-18 months after leaving.
“The system fails children in preparing them for aging out. Schools especially do not have enough accommodations for kids who are constantly getting moved around,” Yolanda Deaton, Associate Director for Covenant Kids said in a statement. “As a result kids are often held back, which doesn’t provide them with much motivation to graduate once they are in high school.”
Deaton acknowledged the state has become more proactive about addressing this issue in order to improve the numbers, but it will still take time. For now, Joanna hopes that creating awareness and raising money to support the cause will speed along the process. Her first attempt to raise money will be through Raising Hopes for Spokes- a fundraising team she has created amongst her group of friends. The women have planned a bike ride in hopes of collecting at least $6,000- or enough money to place at least three children in forever homes.
“My awareness has been raised about this universal problem,” Joanna says. “It isn’t going to get fixed in a day but hopefully this little-drop-in-the-bucket bike ride is a start.”
The ride will take place on April 26th in Mineral Wells, Texas. To donate to Joanna’s cause, click here. All proceeds will go to Covenant Kids, a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing and licensing families to foster and adopt children.