First U’s ILYA Program (Independent Living for Young Adults) has been serving youth and young adults aging out of the foster care system in New Castle County since 2005. More recently, new partnerships have allowed us to expand to support youth in Kent County. This social justice effort was started by members of our congregation who recognized there was a clear need in the community to support these youth who, after experiencing a traumatic childhood, now face multiple life challenges as they age out of the child welfare system with few resources. The program is coordinated by volunteers in partnership with the State of Delaware’s Division of Family Services.
But why do youth enter Foster Care in the first place?
Just like younger children, teens can be subjected to physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse by a caregiver.
Teens’ families can become serially homeless and when motel vouchers have expired, there may be no other safe place for a teen to reside other than foster care.
When parents’ addictions prevent them from being responsible caregivers and there are no grandparents or other family members to step in, foster homes may be the only option.
When an elderly grandparent or relative who has been the sole caregiver passes away, there may be no one else to offer care.
A child has suffered such significant trauma before teenage years that the lingering mental health issues prevent them from being adopted after they turn 13.
A parent/teen conflict becomes so severe that the parent/s refuses to let the youth remain in the home.
More recently, with youth being more open about their sexual identity, some teens who identify as LGBTQ enter foster care after being rejected by their birth families.
ILYA provides support so these young adults feel part of a caring community and offers resources to increase their chances for future success. Through multiple projects, ILYA teams support the practical needs of these young people, who have experienced significant trauma, when transitioning into the adult world.