Program connects foster kids with jobs as they leave state system

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Homeless, undereducated and often criminal. The statistics aren't good for foster children once they leave the state system. A new program made up of volunteers in Arizona is trying to help this vulnerable population of young adults.

Kaileb Wyatt is barely 18 years old and he knows he likes computers. But, he admits, he doesn't know much else.
 
“I didn't really do high school,” Wyatt said. “I didn't develop the study skills that I needed for college. My first semester wasn't good at all.”
 
Wyatt said he was in and out of juvenile detention and foster care from the time he was 14. When his 18th birthday came along in December, his case worker told him his time under the state's wing was coming to an end.
 
“They just kind of said, ‘All right, you're out now,’ ” he said. “Then it kind of dawned on me that now I have a lot to worry about.”
 
So far, Wyatt has only received one check out of three from the state. It is money meant to help a young adult start in life.
 
Fortunately for him, Vicki Mayo and the program she helped start, Keys to Success, are helping him work and adjust.
 
“We take those kids and we work with them on career development, education planning, and then we transition them into real paid jobs,” Mayo said.
 
Mayo is a vice president at Valor Global and was able to hire Wyatt. It hasn’t been easy for him or his coworkers, but he is learning how to build a server and how to take care of himself.
 
Mayo has a small network of companies with managers willing to take on foster children who age out of the system at 18. She says it is so much more than giving them a job.
 
“We check in on them outside of work,” Mayo said. “We make sure if they have a problem, like they can't get to work, they don't have bus fare, we find a way to carpool and get them there. We make those extra concessions to ensure these youth are successful.” 
 
“Employers we work with have to understand, little things can derail a kid that doesn't have any support,” said Kris Jacober, executive director at the Arizona Friends of Foster Care Foundation.
 
The foundation pays for the program using donations. Jacober says her board members decided they wanted to give older foster children a real shot at life.
 
“I would like to be the first one in their life to say, ‘You know what?’ You're really good at this and maybe you could go down that road in your career.' The same way your parents do," Jacober said.
 
“A lot of times, employers have to rally and put a team around each one of these youths to make them successful,” Mayo added. 
 
The program will help about 100 kids like Wyatt in 2015, but 800 will leave the system. They need more money, and companies willing to hire and mentor a young adult.
 
“Right now, I'm more focused on getting just the certifications I need to build within this company,” Wyatt said, “and get myself on my feet.”
 
This program got started last year because there is now an Arizona tax credit for foster programs such as this.
 
You can make a donation and get the money back on your return. If enough money comes in, they may be able to help more than the 100 kids in the budget.
 
For more information, go here: http://fosterfriendaz.org/taxcredit/