St. Aemilian-Lakeside board member says advocates needed for young people aging out of foster care

Written by admin   // March 18, 2011   // 0 Comments

Ruby Brooks

It’s hard enough for kids from a regular family to launch themselves into adulthood when they reach 18. For kids who have been in foster care most of their lives, the task is even more daunting.

That’s why Ruby Brooks maintains her position on the board of St. Aemilian-Lakeside, a social services organization at 89th and Capitol. She heads the board’s advocacy committee and also is a children’s pastor and a director of children’s ministry at an area church.

This mother of two, grandmother of five and great-grandmother of two works full time for Milwaukee County with disadvantaged small businesses. But her life’s passion is children, particularly those in need.

“We need advocates for the young people who are aging out of foster care,” Ruby said. “It can’t be just, ‘You’re 18. See ya!’ They are not prepared to go out and face the world.”

Ruby’s sentiments are borne out by statistics. Less than 20 percent of youth in Wisconsin are self-sufficient when they age out of foster care, according to the Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center. Under 40 percent are employed a year after aging out, and this population is more than 12 times more likely to become homeless than their peers.

But, Ruby doesn’t like to even speak about the negative things that could happen to these young people. “I want to speak about good things for them,” she said. “What they need is jobs and job training specific to them, job shadowing and mentoring. They need role models. They need understanding, and to be part of a family structure. They need nurturing. And they need love. All kids need that.”

Things adults can help with when working with the many African-American youth in foster care include stressing the importance of learning and using Standard English in a work setting. “I always say I’m bilingual,” she said with a laugh. “In corporate America, I speak standard English. At home, with family, my speech is more relaxed. The young people need to hear this from someone from their own culture.”

Ruby mentored a young woman in St. Aemilian-Lakeside’s Independent Living Services program, which helps youth aging out of foster care, for a short time. And when a group of young people from the program were moved into their own apartments, Ruby was there welcoming them to their new homes.

The mentoring situation did not last long, Ruby said, because, as with any young person, “they have to want help. If not, I put them in my prayers. I know I can always pray for them as well as advocate for them.”

It’s the latter role that she suggests to members of the community who may not have the time or resources to assist otherwise. “You need to write to your state legislators, talk to and write to anybody who will listen to you. We need people to be advocating for these children.”

If you don’t know the issues, “just go online and see what’s there for ‘kids aging out of foster care,’ ” she said.

In the foster care system, kids often learn to develop survival skills, she said. “But some aren’t OK. And it’s our responsibility as a society to care for those kids.”

To learn more about foster care and independent living services, visit www.st-al.org.

St. Aemilian-Lakeside board member says advocates needed for young people aging out of foster care

Ruby Brooks

It’s hard enough for kids from a regular family to launch themselves into adulthood when they reach 18. For kids who have been in foster care most of their lives, the task is even more daunting.

That’s why Ruby Brooks maintains her position on the board of St. Aemilian-Lakeside, a social services organization at 89th and Capitol. She heads the board’s advocacy committee and also is a children’s pastor and a director of children’s ministry at an area church.

This mother of two, grandmother of five and great-grandmother of two works full time for Milwaukee County with disadvantaged small businesses. But her life’s passion is children, particularly those in need.

“We need advocates for the young people who are aging out of foster care,” Ruby said. “It can’t be just, ‘You’re 18. See ya!’ They are not prepared to go out and face the world.”

Ruby’s sentiments are borne out by statistics. Less than 20 percent of youth in Wisconsin are self-sufficient when they age out of foster care, according to the Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center. Under 40 percent are employed a year after aging out, and this population is more than 12 times more likely to become homeless than their peers.

But, Ruby doesn’t like to even speak about the negative things that could happen to these young people. “I want to speak about good things for them,” she said. “What they need is jobs and job training specific to them, job shadowing and mentoring. They need role models. They need understanding, and to be part of a family structure. They need nurturing. And they need love. All kids need that.”

Things adults can help with when working with the many African-American youth in foster care include stressing the importance of learning and using Standard English in a work setting. “I always say I’m bilingual,” she said with a laugh. “In corporate America, I speak standard English. At home, with family, my speech is more relaxed. The young people need to hear this from someone from their own culture.”

Ruby mentored a young woman in St. Aemilian-Lakeside’s Independent Living Services program, which helps youth aging out of foster care, for a short time. And when a group of young people from the program were moved into their own apartments, Ruby was there welcoming them to their new homes.

The mentoring situation did not last long, Ruby said, because, as with any young person, “they have to want help. If not, I put them in my prayers. I know I can always pray for them as well as advocate for them.”

It’s the latter role that she suggests to members of the community who may not have the time or resources to assist otherwise. “You need to write to your state legislators, talk to and write to anybody who will listen to you. We need people to be advocating for these children.”

If you don’t know the issues, “just go online and see what’s there for ‘kids aging out of foster care,’ ” she said.

In the foster care system, kids often learn to develop survival skills, she said. “But some aren’t OK. And it’s our responsibility as a society to care for those kids.”

To learn more about foster care and independent living services, visit www.st-al.org.


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