Buckeye Ranch helping teens who aged out of foster system just before pandemic hit

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– Last week Gov. DeWine announced that teens who are aging out of foster care during the COVID-19 pandemic could stay in the system, providing relief for more than 200 young people who would have suddenly been on their own during this crisis.

But what about those who turned 18 right before the pandemic hit? Buckeye Ranch is stepping in to help these young adults find stability and safety.

Eighteen year old Zahara Moody had a new door opened for her on Friday.  

“They make sure that I’m okay and that it’s a safe place,” she said with a shy smile.  

Zahara joined Buckeye Ranch’s “My Place” program, which helps recently aged-out foster care youths that are homeless.   

“We support them by guiding them, making sure you know that they are in control of their lives,” said Ricky McElroy, the program manager for “My Place.”  

“We obviously provide housing here but we also provide case management, we provide employment help, we provide resources for housing, we make sure that the young adult decides what they want to do in their future with regards to education,” explained Kim Miller, the Vice President of Programs and Strategy at Buckeye Ranch. “So we really let the youth, the young adult guide what their future will look like and we support them.” 

Right now, that support also includes comfort as many of these young adults are trying to navigate this transitional time of their lives during a pandemic.  

“It’s a scary time for young adults who have aged out,” said Kim. “They don’t have a lot of support. People aren’t finding jobs right now, education is really up in the air right now, and young adults are scared.” 

“Some people can pass away from it, but if I’m here it’s more supported and it’s better,” said Zahara.  

So when a couple spots opened up at “My Place,” Kim knew that Buckeye Ranch had to secure the funds to fill them quickly. So the organization partnered with the youth shelter Star House and reached out to The Columbus Foundation. The group answered the call promptly, awarding “My Place” a $27,000 grant through the foundation’s emergency response fund.  

“We’re targeting kids with some chronic health conditions, which is really important because we don’t want them out on the streets with chronic health conditions, getting coronavirus,” said Kim. “Star House has been identifying the kids, the young adults to come here, and we would not have been able to serve those young adults without the foundation, the Columbus Foundation’s help.” 

“That notion of safety and security and having a literal roof over your head, brings so much dignity to a person,” said Dan Sharpe from the Columbus Foundation. “Knowing that the stability of a home is important to their mental health, physical health, and just overall well being” 

For Zahara, the month of April may have started with so much uncertainty and fear; but now, she’s standing strong and ready to take the next steps.  

“[I want to] move forward with life and I want to be happy and to feel pleasure,” she said. “I feel comfortable and I feel safe.” 

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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