CASA of Northwest Arkansas is launching "Life Long Links" to help older foster youth find families. The program was funded by a $63,495 grant from the Walmart Foundation.
Teens targeted for this program are seasoned veterans of the system and will likely age out with little if any support system in place. Because of this, these young people are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to end up incarcerated and/or homeless than their peers, the nonprofit notes in its release.
The Life Long Links program seeks to reconnect older youth with biological relatives to give a sense of family, identity, and belonging. Once made, these connections may result in something as simple as meaningful and consistent contact between the child and a caring adult or relative. Ideally, this program will result in identifying permanent, safe, and stable homes for these children outside of the foster care system.
“This grant will enable us to direct some much needed services into a largely underserved population,” said Ryan Brashears, the CASA supervisor for Life Long Links. “These kids have been through so much, many of them have spent years in the system housed in group homes, facilities, and foster homes if they’re lucky. There may be family members out there who are ready and willing to take them in but either don’t know that the child is in care or don’t know what to do about it. Every child deserves to know their family.”
Life Long Links will be supervised by CASA staff but carried out by trained volunteers from the community. This efficiency will allow more young people to receive these services. Thirty teenagers have already been identified as candidates for this program.