May is National Foster Care Awareness Month, a month dedicated to recognizing the contribution of foster parents, family members, volunteers, and other members of the community who help children find permanent housing and care. Designed For Joy is a Raleigh-based nonprofit that serves women in crisis. With this mission, we are empowered to share the stories of nonprofits serving other communities in crisis—such as the story of the nonprofit Hope + Vine.
Hope + Vine, a partner of Designed For Joy, is a nonprofit based out of Wake Forest, North Carolina, that provides community, employment opportunities, and mentorship for women who have aged out of foster care. Rachael Smith, Hope + Vine’s executive director, emphasizes the importance of their honorable mission: “Just like Designed For Joy, we know that what we do is more than a pair of earrings. The employment we offer simply provides the means to build authentic relationships that lead to healing and gaining the tools to become self-sustaining, thriving adults.”
In the state of North Carolina, there were over 11,000 kids in the foster-care system in 2021. As of the most recent data collected in 2020, there were about 400,000 children in the foster care system nationwide. Children who enter foster care may have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents or guardians. All of these children have experienced loss and trauma in some way and need stability in the form of a foster family, home, and job opportunities.
Homelessness and unemployment become a significant challenge for children aging out of the foster-care system. About one in four kids who age out of the system will not graduate from high school or be able to pass their GED. Additionally, there is less than a three percent chance that children who have aged out of the foster care system will earn a college degree. This is because, while in the foster-care system, many children do not have the same access to resources or opportunities as other kids their age. In the city of Raleigh, more than half of the homeless population has spent time in foster care. Additionally, over half of human-trafficking victims come from foster care, and one in four former foster youth end up incarcerated. These statistics are disheartening, but emphasize the need to support programs and organizations that give opportunities to children in, and aging out of, the foster-care system.
An artisan from Designed For Joy, RH, grew up in the foster-care system; she reflects on her experience, saying, “I will forever be grateful for my foster family. They loved me and accepted me into their home. Their unconditional love, support, and motivation during a time when I needed the most definitely saved my life. In the future, when I have my own home, I want to return the favor and foster youth and show them they matter and they are loved.” RH’s experience in the foster-care system highlights the positive impact that foster families can have on their foster children and shows the importance of Foster Care Awareness Month.
Nonprofit organizations such as Hope + Vine are seeking to show foster youth that they matter and are loved. By providing employment opportunities, young women coming out of the system are able to build community with other women while earning a living wage. They also have the benefit of a mentorship program that provides them with valuable life skills, such as developing a budget and meal planning.
If the Foster Care Awareness initiative speaks to you, consider supporting nonprofits organizations like Hope + Vine. Whether it's through volunteering, donating, or spreading awareness on the need for local—as well as state and nationwide—foster-care support, your contributions will help uplift foster-care youth. In turn, children in, or aging out of, foster care are provided with safe, stable life opportunities.