The following is an article about the Foundation 2 Transitional Living Program (TLP) featured in the July 20th edition of the Cedar Rapids Gazette:
Program helps young adults start off right
By Steve Gravelle
CEDAR RAPIDS — It’s a tough time to start out on your own, but Ivory Browning found a job she likes watching other people’s kids.
“You want to share?” Browning asked a pair of toddlers as they dumped a box of blocks onto the floor. “Take turns.” “It’s a good job,” Browning, 19, of Cedar Rapids, said of her first month at Kirkwood Kids, the community college’s day-care program for its students’ children.
Kirkwood Kids is more convenient than Browning’s last job, at a Hy-Vee grocery store.
And besides helping pay for this fall’s Kirkwood tuition, the job is required by Foundation 2’s Transitional Living Program, which helps Browning and 21 other local young people, most lacking a tight family connection, get launched in life.
“When I graduated from high school, I didn’t have any place to go,” said Browning, who had been in foster care since she was 11. “Well, I did, but it wasn’t a positive background.” Transitional Living isn’t limited to youths “aging out” of the foster system at 18, but that describes most of the participants. The program combines financial help with intensive mentoring on the big and small issues of daily life — budgets, laundry, cooking.
Newly minted adults lacking ready family support can use the extra help in the best of times.
In a troubled economy, it’s even more critical.
“My kids weren’t fully independent when they’re 18,” said Charles Bruner, executive director of the Child and Family Policy Center in Des Moines.
“The research is pretty clear that kids who have been in foster care are likely to face challenges as they move on. They’re much more likely to end up homeless or on public assistance or in the courts.” Launched in 2001, the program is usually at its maximum 22 participants, with another 50 or so on the waiting list, said Steve Harford, coordinator of independent living programs for Foundation 2. The program is funded through a $200,000 fiveyear federal grant with a 10 percent match from Foundation 2’s budget.
The Cedar Rapidsbased non-profit leases the apartments. Its tenants pay the regular rental rate, but their payments are returned to them when they complete the program. Participants can stay in the program up to 18 months if they meet its conditions, which include employment and random drug testing and drop-in staff visits.
“They helped me a lot with budgeting, how to budget your money,” said Browning. “It helped me to decide what’s a need and what’s a want.” “It basically took me from a sheltered life that I had in foster care and showed me what it takes to live on my own,” said Brandon McEowen, one of the program’s earliest participants. McEowen, 27, is working at a gas station and plans to return to Kirkwood this fall to study toward a social work degree.
“It gave me opportunities I probably otherwise wouldn’t have,” he said of the program. “A shot at life.”
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