By Libby Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – There are 4,035 children and youth living in foster care in Colorado. Raise the Future works to find permanency for the older ones, sibling groups, and children who face some barriers to being adopted.

“At Raise the Future, we believe that youth need people, not just programs. And this past year has been pretty exceptionally difficult on our communities, and so the youth in our programs have lost connections that maybe they had prior,” said Katrina George, with Raise the Future.

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George is the Director of Raise the Future’s CHOICE mentoring program. It’s designed to create lasting connections for youth who are at risk of leaving foster care without life-long relationships with stable adults.

“We work on connecting them with mentors of their choice, which is the great part. They get to have a say in who their mentor is going to be. Our mentoring program looks a little different than other mentoring programs. So we really strive to create a family relationship and an environment for our youth. So our mentors are not just seeing the youth in the community, but they’re having those youth over to their homes, they’re doing overnights, they’re introducing that youth to their families, to their friends. We’re just aiming to create more relationships and more support for these youth,” George explained. “An example that I have is we have a youth who’s been in our program and connected with his mentors for three-and-a-half years. And they show up for him when a lot of people haven’t. They went to his high school graduation, they helped him find housing, they help him just focus on a future that he wanted, and that’s ultimately that’s all we can ask for our mentors and these youth to have.”

(credit: CBS)

About 250 teens emancipate out of foster care every year in Colorado. Those without a stable support system often end up homeless or incarcerated, they end up using drugs, and often become parents before they’re ready. A program like CHOICE can save society an estimated $90 million a year in costs related to those bad outcomes.

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“I think we has humans, all need someone in our corner. So imagine being 18, if you’re on your own, your car breaks down, you’re applying for a job, you don’t have anywhere to go for the holidays, who do you call? Our hope is that through CHOICE and our CHOICE mentors, that that is who the youth call when they need somebody,” George told CBS4.

Three-quarters of the youth who participate in the CHOICE program get matched with a mentor. And 68-percent of those relationships grow into life-long legal or relational connections.

“While we’re proud to say we’ve had a handful of adoptions through our program, meaning the mentors have adopted the youth that they’re mentoring, it doesn’t have to just be about legal permanency. We focus on permanency as a whole for the youth, and so that can be relational permanency. For us, relational permanency means that you’re showing up, that you’re stable, that you can maybe be a lifetime connection for a youth,” George said.

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Every year, CBS4 hosts A Day 4 Wednesday’s Child to raise money and awareness of the good work being done by Raise the Future. Tune in to CBS4 on Wednesday, April 14th for Day 4 Wednesday’s Child. You can make a donation at www.raisefuture.org, text FUTURE to 41444, or call (303) 755-4756.

Libby Smith