CBS Chicago: ‘Let It Be Us’ helping young people make the leap from foster care to adult independence
- January 3, 2023
CHICAGO (CBS) — All kids in the foster care system are in need of a loving home, whether on a temporary or permanent basis. Statistics show teens are more likely to have a difficult time finding that home than any other age group, but they’re eligible for state help only through age 21.
So what happens then? Let It Be Us, an agency in the northwest suburbs, is working hard to help those young people survive and thrive.
Alex is on her way to a career in construction – her dream job – but she can tell you dreams don’t always come true.
“I technically do not have parents. I don’t have, like, a family,” she said.
Alex spent years in the foster care system, and when it was time to leave, she felt lost.
“I was aging out of the system, when they can’t really help you anymore,” she said. “You’re officially on your own. You realize, ‘I need a place to live, I need to put food on the table, I need a job, I need to be able to handle all of this pressure.'”
Alex didn’t have to face that pressure alone, thanks to Let It Be Us, a child welfare agency in Barrington.
Its Springboard to Adulthood program helps foster youth get on their own; emotionally, physically, and financially.
It also helps them get on a career path, attend college, and find housing.
“We pay for their books for school, we help them prepare for interviews, we help them find those jobs,” said Let It Be Us founder and executive director Susan McConnell.
“I prefer living alone, and they said, ‘Well, we can help you with your rent if you can be in this program, prove to us you work, you can take care of yourself and your home, you can cook, you can pay your bills,’ you know, simple enough things,” Alex said.
A key component to the program is mentorship from adults who help them manage money, find jobs, and more.
Alex’s helpers are Doug and Nancy Locke.
“When I have emotional things to handle, they’re there. When I have physical things, I’m like, ‘Oh, I got myself in a little knot,’ they’re like, ‘Okay, let’s figure this out.’ Just anything, honestly, I can tell them, and they’re able to help me through it,” Alex said.
“I feel good that we can be supportive of her, that she knows we care about her, and we do,” Nancy Locke said.
“We find that when we attach a family, or a family-like structure to these young people, they can be successful, and they can have nice strong lives,” McConnell said.
“We’re making sure they have those skills, in order to conquer the world as it is, and be able to be independent just as a whole,” said Let It Be Us program director Kendra Wright.
Alex said that means the world to her.
“Let It Be Us has been like my parents, grandparents, aunt, uncle; they’ve been like my family,” Alex said.
Let It Be Us is privately funded, and always looking for mentors.
We were told “it doesn’t cost you anything to help these young people, except time, patience and love.”
Adults with all different skills are welcome to apply. Check out letitbeus.org to learn how.
About Let It Be Us