Akron house is providing a life-saving resource for children who have aged out of the foster system

Posted at 10:46 AM, Sep 19, 2018

Homelessness, addiction and suicide are just some of the realities many young adults face after they leave foster care.

In that past, that’s meant at age 18 they're out.

But an assistance program here in Ohio which turned 2 years old this month, has been trying to help. The question is, in the past year, how helpful has it really been?

“I didn’t even learn how to cook until I was 19 because it was always considered a liability for being a foster youth,” said Master Cook, 24, who had been in the foster care system for 18 years.

Learning how to cook was just one of many things he had to learn once he aged out of the system.

“People have a propensity to believe when you’re in foster care everything is hunky dory. I kind of had to play catch up,” he said.

And like any 18-year-old, that it can be overwhelming.

“Often at 18 you do the more serious damage to your life and to your future,” said Karla McDay, executive director of Harmony House, a home for young adult men.

That’s why the state created the bridges program, through passing House Bill 50 and making it law. It gives young adults like Cook, the option to utilized state-funded resources until the age of 21, versus age 18.

“Legislators identified that something needed to be done,” said Colleen Tucker, Bridges Director for the Ohio Department of Job & Family Services.

But now functioning almost a year, program organizers are struggling to provide those resources fast enough.

“It’s fairly new and what’s happening is a lot of roll out is still going on,” McDay said, who’s worked in the industry for nearly 2 decades.

Tucker confirms the state is still trying to get on their feet.

“We definitely have discrepancies across the state regarding services and what services are available,” she said.

In turn, some young adults get placed in housing, not equipped to set them up for a life of success.

“They find challenges and if they’re not mature,  they’re not stable, if they don’t have experience, they often times fall into what’s going in the public housing environment,” said McDay.

Or they end up worse. The national law center on homelessness and poverty found 5,000 of youth aging out, either die from assault, illness or suicide, every year.

That’s where the Harmony House in Akron comes in. It’s a home partnering with the Bridges program, for young men like 24-year-old Cook to have housing and life skills training.

“Providing housing to give these young men an opportunity to get a leg up was the thing I wanted to do,” said McDay.

The hope is for them to have a thriving future.

“I plan to take full advantage of everything that it offers,” Cook said.

The house has rules, mostly no drugs, alcohol or guests. The focus is for them to get on their feet, as soon as possible, though there’s no limit on their stay.