Young people in foster care often face uncertainty, but a nonprofit organization is hoping to take away some of that.
Based in Atlanta, the Ringer Center is hosting a Future Focus Conference at the Hilton Garden Inn on Mercer University’s campus this weekend. The goal of the conference is to guide the expected 50 to 75 foster youths in attendance toward educational and career options that fit their strengths and passions.
“The main purpose is to give foster youth an opportunity to explore their future,” said spokeswoman Rose Mincey.
The Ringer Center was founded in 2005 to help people of all ages gain skills to be ready for the workplace or for educational opportunities. In general, the aim for the center’s clients is “just being prepared for the world,” Mincey said.
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Specifically for this conference, which will begin Saturday at 4 p.m. and end at 4 p.m. Sunday, the plan is to give foster youth in the 11th and 12th grades some direction. Those young people are often “left out,” said CEO Nattlie Ringer.
“They’re going to walk away knowing, for right now, what they want to do for their future,” she said. “Things change, but they’re going to have a really good idea.”
Social workers in the Bibb County school system have seen the issues that foster children face. In many cases, even if district officials get a call from another county that a foster child is coming to Bibb County, they still might not know the specific school.
Once staffers figure that out, the district has social workers who deal specifically with foster children, even in group homes.
“We try to assist and help walk through, so there won’t be any issues,” said Angela Solomon, the district’s social work coordinator.
Foster situations often change multiple times throughout a student’s life, and that can create an issue for the school. In one case, Solomon said a student was told by his foster parent that he wouldn’t be living at his current home anymore, and he began to “show out” in school.
Because of that type of scenario, Solomon said the district requires that a Bibb County school system employee be present if anyone from the Division of Family and Children Services comes to speak with a student.
That way, the district isn’t left with a disgruntled student without knowing what the issue is or how to help, Solomon said.
The Future Focus Conference was organized to help students overcome their often negative pasts.
As part of the event, students will have the opportunity to talk to representatives from Middle Georgia State University and other colleges as well as branches of the military and employers.
To find their fit in those various options, students will make “vision boards” to explore what things are important to them and what careers they find attractive. They’ll cut out photos from magazines that reflect those choices and help them organize their thoughts.
“You basically do it pictorially on their board,” Mincey said.
From there, students can assess what education or training is needed for their chosen field. It’s all in an effort to correct the “inconsistency” that foster youth often see in their upbringing and education, Mincey said. As a result, those kids might grow up with a negative perception of the path they can take in life.
“We’re trying to get them to look at their future in a positive light,” she said.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@MTJTimm.