Youth Villages stories

LifeSet participant, Brayden with his specialist

Brayden regains his voice, support systems through Independent Living Program

Feb 13, 2024 | Blog, LifeSet

Brayden regains his voice, support systems through Independent Living Program

As a 20-year-old, Brayden looks back on the day that transformed his outlook on life. “It’s weird to see how I was back then and to see all the things I’ve been able to work toward,” he said.

Like with many transition-age youth (youth turning 18 while in foster care), the pathway to success is never as smooth or as easy as it may seem. Without support, many young people experience adversity in that highly critical transition to adulthood. Youth Villages is committed to ensuring every young adult aging out of foster care has the tools they need to step into this new phase of life successfully.

At just 1 year old, Brayden entered the state care due to drug use in the home and eventually wound up in kinship care with extended family. “It was difficult for me to feel like I had a voice to speak out,” Brayden said.

Due to not having a strong support system or an emotional supportive household, Brayden started to show signs of behavioral challenges as he grew older.

“Throughout school, it was really hard for me because I had a lot of issues with behavioral stuff, learning how to talk to people and learning how to assimilate myself in a social background,” Brayden said.

After his extended family placed him back into state care, Brayden bounced around foster placements, group homes and a couple of residential facilities.

LifeSet participant, Brayde

Four years ago, Brayden’s narrative began to change when he entered extension of foster care and met his Independent Living specialist, Emily.

“The first time I was paired up with Emily, I was excited because all the specialists I had in the past were there to do assessments on me, do a behavioral analysis or go through the medication lists,” he said.

Emily would ask Brayden how he was doing, what his needs were and what goals he wanted to accomplish. Brayden has never been asked those questions. He was taken back, “I’m sorry, what goals do I have?” Brayden recalled.

He says Emily understood his background but wanted to know who he was as a person rather than who he was on paper and that it was a breath of fresh air.

She’s been like this web of comfort for me. Emily overall is just a bundle of joy. Every time I see her, she’s happy. We crack jokes, and I feel like she’s my friend.

- Brayden

Emily guided Brayden as he searched for housing and helped him get set up with a financial literacy program. Last year, he saved enough money to purchase his own car. Brayden says he has more in store for this year.

“Right now, my goal with Emily is to finally close my case through the Independent Living Program and graduate out of the foster care system on my 21st birthday,” he said.

Brayden says there’s always a positive side for people who may be going through similar obstacles as he did.

“Find something that is passionate to you and hold on to it,” Brayden said. “Be goal oriented, recognize that you have the power to get through it, and know you are just as strong as anybody else.”

Click here for more information and stories from our programs in Oregon.

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