By Mooresville Tribune | Friday, May 30, 2021

One out of three teens aging out of foster care will experience homelessness, and one out of four will be incarcerated by age 21. The statistics are bleak. Local race car driver Joey Logano and his wife, Brittany, want to help hundreds of North Carolina teens transitioning from foster care to adulthood, most often with no support.

A local partnership between the Joey Logano Foundation and Children’s Hope Alliance (CHA) is focused on helping to meet this need. The foundation awarded $100,000 to CHA this week to expand its Transitional Living Program and help up to 24 struggling teens at a time.

“Our goal is to give children and young adults a second, or even first, chance in life. Those that are in the foster care system or aging out need love and support to help them be ready to live successfully on their own one day,” said Joey Logano. “Having a partner like Children’s Hope Alliance means so much to our local community in North Carolina. The passion that the leaders put into this organization means the world for these kids and we consider ourselves lucky to be able to support their mission.”

This “dream team” is at the starting line, ready for the flag to drop in the race to help North Carolina’s most vulnerable children and youths. In recent years, the Foundation granted substantial funds to support CHA foster care and adoption programs, donated automotive tools to keep the agency’s vehicles running, provided hams for Christmas to all children and families served by CHA, sponsored Christmas parties for foster care families, and provided activity kits for a group homes under quarantine during COVID.

And now the partners are revving their engines to do even more.

Approximately 5,000 youths in North Carolina leave the foster care system each year. Between 2016 and 2018, 12 to 18 percent of those leaving the system were between 16 and 20 years old. Many of these youths face life alone, without the support of a family and permanent home like many of their peers. Often these young people lack the skills to be successful young adults. The CHA Transitional Living Program removes these barriers to success by providing an opportunity to acquire the academic, social, emotional, vocational, and independent living skills to be successful as an adult.

“We have to do something to help these young adults prepare for living on their own. The numbers clearly illustrate that they need assistance in order to be successful,” CHA Chief Executive Officer Celeste Dominguez said. “Thousands of kids each year leave the foster care system and a good number of them are aging out with no resources to support them.”

That was Susan’s situation. At age 12, her father was arrested, and she was left on her own. She didn’t trust anyone. She was defiant and argumentative with her caregivers, teachers and peers. After struggling in the foster care system for five years and adult responsibilities staring her in the face, Susan arrived at CHA’s Transitional Living Program.

Like so many other teens in her situation, Susan was ill-equipped to be on her own. She couldn’t control her anger and had frequent emotional outbursts. The closer she got to her 18th birthday, the more fearful she became of what the future might hold. She dreaded the thought of having no one to encourage and support her as she entered the adult world of work and living on her own.

Today, Susan lives in her own apartment on the CHA Statesville campus with a caregiver close by to help prepare her for job interviews, provide assistance with college applications, paying bills, shopping for groceries, and other independent living skills.

The three-phase CHA Transitional Living Program aids young adults, ages 18 to 21, in their growth to becoming positive, contributing members of their communities by gradually increasing responsibility while teaching the skills needed to meet rising expectations. Based on the ability of the teen, they live in a dorm-like setting or an apartment on campus and receive 24/7 support from trained staff.