UALR grad offers help, hope for former foster kids | News
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Feb. 29, 2012) - A UALR grad is turning his work in school into his work for life.
Finding a forever family doesn't come easy for everyone. Today's THV has shared countless stories of these children in our Place to Call Home series. For those about to "age out" of foster care, the chance of finding that forever home is even less.
In today's Hero Central, one man took his dream to help these very children to an extraordinary level, making this his thesis as he worked toward a Masters in Social work at UALR.
"It came as a shock to me that we have 17-year-olds in our country that are looking for a family, that haven't found a permanent home or a permanent solution," says Eric Gilmore, Executive Director for Immerse Arkansas.
Eric Gilmore and his wife, Kara, are helping teens between 16 and 21 transition from foster care to adulthood through their nonprofit, Immerse Arkansas.
"We don't think any young person aging out of foster care in Arkansas should do so alone. Just like you'd have a coach in basketball, or a choir director in a choir, it's somebody up there that's trying to motivate you, trying to point you in the right direction, making sure that you have the resources you need," Gilmore adds.
Mentors work with participants teaching them some basic life skills, everything from how to load the dishwasher to doing their laundry in hopes that they can do it when they're on their own.
"I was thankful for immerse because if it hadn't been for them I'd had been up a creek again," says Shaun Gains, an Immerse Arkansas resident since December 2010.
Gains lived in foster care for 8 years.
"They just gave me somebody to talk to really at that time. They helped me get on my feet. They helped me get an apartment. You know the basic things a parent would do," adds Gains.
Gains isn't the only one to experience the Gilmores' love and support.
"Kara and Eric's like my mom and dad!"
Meagan Carson, in the system for 10 years, lived with the Gilmores as a foster child.
"They were really like the people that gave me the hand that brought me up. That's the best thing I can say about them," says Carson.
Carson hopes to follow their example of helping foster children.
"Instead of having children of our own just because I have such a heart touch on it," Carson explains.
The Department of Human Services' Division of Children and Family services works as much as they can with these young adults. A young person can elect to stay in care until age 21 if they meet certain criteria. If they stay in care, they can receive about $750 a month for living expenses.