A more than 10-year-old program supporting children in foster care has branched out to boost those who have aged-out of the system. Books For Youth is a statewide collaboration with partners including Indianapolis-based Cargo Services Inc., the Indianapolis Colts and the Indiana Department of Child Services. It involves donating thousands of age-appropriate books and backpacks to foster kids. The program has expanded to offer a high school graduation party at the Colts’ training complex for students who have exceeded the system’s age limit and may not otherwise receive recognition for completing a diploma.
Cargo Services co-owner Steve Fugate says Books For Youth supports kids who are often over-looked at a crucial time in their lives. In addition to the party, the program helps advise the students on some key next steps.
"We’re giving kids — probably ages anywhere from 3 all the way up to 10,12,11 — and realized, ‘hey, we’re missing a group of kids’ here in what they call collaborative care that are aging out of the foster care system. So, ages 15,16, 17. Most kids have never been in permanent placement and we actually met with a group of these kids and said ‘what is it within the system that a company like cargo services can help you with?’" Fugate said in an (i) on Education interview on Inside INdiana Business Television.
Fugate says the needs kids have indicated are "eye-opening" and include questions ranging from getting a driver’s license to applying for college and federal student aid. "Life with kids is hard enough when you’ve got a stable system," he said. "So we put our minds together and thought, let’s acknowledge these kids that are trying to stick through this." The graduation party portion of the effort is in its third year and has included students from high schools including Warren Central, Lawrence North, Northwest, Southport, Ben Davis and Perry Meridian.