Helping teens become self-sufficient adults

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Ward Home helps teen­agers make the transition from the social services system to self-sufficient adult life.

Twenty-two foster teens—14 of whom are African-Americans, participate in “life skills training” programs operated by Ward Home, founded in 1905.

Nationally, only 50 percent of foster teens finish high school. However, this year, all 22 high school seniors in Ward Home programs graduated.

Better yet…21 are starting college in the fall, and the remaining teen will begin a career in the U.S. Army Special Operations.

Ward Home operates three independent living facilities that are supervised by Direct Care Specialists 24/7.

They are:

•An apartment building for teen girls in Friendship;

•An apartment building for teen mothers and their children in Wilkinsburg;

•A renovated convent in East McKeesport for teen boys.

During their stay, teens learn life skills, such as how to budget, grocery shop, prepare meals and maintain an apartment. They are required to adhere to clearly defined rules, such as curfews, housekeeping standards and “good neighbor” policies for common areas, such as the laundry facilities and community room.

Ward Home also operates an in-home service—Ward Independence Skills Enhancement—that sends direct care specialists into the community to work with teens wherever they live, such as in foster homes, with relatives, in dorm rooms or in shelters.

The direct care specialists stress the importance of setting and achieving educational goals, from earning a high school diploma or general equivalency diploma to choosing a college or trade school.

Direct care specialists help teens to prepare for the SATs, choose majors, evaluate colleges, apply for financial aid, find discounts on books and other supplies, and sometimes even chaperone them on campus tours.

They also give teens the support—and tough love—they need to not only get to school each day, but pass their classes and prepare for college. That can mean taking away privileges, like overnight visits to family, when teens miss school.

(For more information about Ward Home go to http://ward­home.org/ or http://ward­home.word­press.com/)

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