Youth Villages stories
Success Story: The LifeSet difference for Karina
When Karina* met with her LifeSet specialist for the first time, she shared big goals for her future. Like many of her peers preparing to graduate high school, Karina had her eyes set on college and finding a good job. She was hoping to move out of her foster home and live independently. LifeSet was the perfect fit for Karina – her specialist helped build her confidence, gain independence, and empowered her as she worked toward her goals at a crucial time of her life.
Karina is a bright young adult, excited for her next steps as she looks to gain more independence in her life. She’s good at soccer and is hoping she can continue to play in college next year. She also loves video games and asked for a gaming headset during Youth Villages’ last Superheroes holiday drive. In many ways, her life may not seem that different from her peers. Yet unlike them, she is carrying the unseen weight of consequential life decisions and responsibilities that rest solely upon her shoulders, as a youth preparing to emancipate from the state without the safety net of a stable family and support network.
After her mother passed away when Karina was young, she went into the foster care system, living with extended family. As Karina’s LifeSet specialist, Tyler, got to know her, this unresolved trauma of losing her mother was one of many things they discussed. Karina shared how it was difficult to communicate grief with her family. With Tyler’s support, they talked about counseling and how to reach out for support.
Karina was accepted into her local community college and wanted to move closer to campus. Tyler advocated for her as they explored the many different and new challenges this would bring. They set budgets and talked through strategies for money management; they reviewed sample lease agreements and talked about expectations for living in an apartment; they prepared for job interviews and updated her resume; they explored what financial subsidy options were available to her to help pay for her apartment; they mapped out her college schedule and talked through time management strategies for homework and chores. Karina needed to think through all these choices, and Tyler was able to listen to her goals, give her the space and confidence to make decisions and have independence, while offering crucial feedback and support to achieve those goals.
The coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into many of Karina’s plans. She didn’t have a laptop to navigate working virtually or taking college classes online – Tyler was able to access funds provided by Youth Villages donors to purchase Karina a brand-new laptop. She didn’t have her driver’s license, and due to Covid-related slowdowns at state agencies, she wasn’t able to access it quickly. Tyler was able to step in and help navigate the administrative hurdles to get access to this important legal document.
On their own, each of these challenges is surmountable. With a stable support network and guidance from family and peers, many of these may not be a large challenge at all. This is the difference LifeSet makes for youth like Karina. They don’t often have the advantage of a strong support network to help guide them through important life decisions, to help prepare them to live independently and help them if they falter. And most importantly, they don’t have the luxury of putting these decisions off until they feel ready – thankfully, with private philanthropy expanding access to LifeSet across Oregon, more youth like Karina can have access to the stable, individualized supports they deserve as they transition to adulthood.
*name and identifying details have been changed