Brevard County needs foster youth mentorship
Holy Trinity Episcopal Church is located in Melbourne. It has two schools — one in downtown Melbourne and one in Suntree.
VIERA VOICE Courtesy of Nina Keck
Foster children in Florida often face a grim reality when they reach the age of 18.
Just when they officially become adults, these teens often find themselves homeless. On their 18th birthday, many foster teens in Florida age out of the foster system, leaving them without a family to rely on or a place to call home.
The ensuing negative consequences include emotional loss, depression, poverty, and sometimes drug addiction.
Starting in August, there will be hope for some Brevard teens thanks to LiftUp Foster Teens, an outreach program at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Melbourne.
Co-directors Lisa Soloway and Deacon Stacey Westphal are excited about the program’s future.
“We have a great need in Brevard County for the LiftUp program,” Soloway said. “I am excited that our church will be making such a difference in the life of teens aging out of foster care.”
At a time when foster youths need it the most, Holy Trinity parish mentors will help young adults with challenges and arm them with skills to build personal relationships and form a bond with their community.
The Holy Trinity Episcopal Church mentoring program will introduce key concepts, such as living skills, social skills, financial responsibility, leadership and spiritual empowerment.
The Alpha for Youth Program, under the direction of co-rector Rev. Pamela Easterday, will guide the teens in their spiritual growth.
“Many teens age out of foster care in every county of Florida,” Soloway said. “Many of them struggle to finish high school, much less have the adults they need in their life to encourage them to go to college.’’
LiftUP also will provide information on car ownership and other repeat topics to further equip them for life as an adult. After graduating from high school, students will earn a good used car.
Holy Trinity parishioners and members of the community will volunteer as mentors and instructors for the participating teens. Soloway has met with key agencies that take care of foster teens in Melbourne, such as Brevard Family Partnership, the Haven for Children Devereux Advanced Behavioral, Children’s Home Society and Eckerd Connects.
“My husband, Pete, and I adopted our daughter, and fourth child, from foster care in Connecticut in 2002, at the age of 8,” Soloway said. “I could not imagine her being sent out on her own without any emotional and financial support at 18."
LiftUp Foster Teens launch in August. The program is seeking assistance from the community — as mentors, in-kind donations and in other areas.
A community forum will be held June 14 in the Holy Trinity parish hall, 50 W. Strawbridge Ave. in Melbourne. All who are interested in donating, sponsoring a foster child in the LiftUp program or attending can email firstname.lastname@example.org.