(WKBN) – Northeast Ohio Adoption Services (NOAS) is working to help guide children and young adults in the foster care system with a new mentoring program.
The Ignite Foster Youth Mentoring Program is designed to pair a mentor with a child or young adult to serve as a support system.
“There are young adults out there, there’s kids out there, there’s teens out there who need somebody who isn’t there to fix their problems, who isn’t there to work on permanency. Who is just there to support them and take them on new experiences,” said Abi Biroschak, Ignite Program specialist.
The program began this past fall. Right now, Trumbull and Mahoning counties are in dire need of foster families. Although not everyone is at liberty to foster, NOAS wanted to create a way to still support those in the system.
“We do want a lot of it to be just fun, new experiences like going to the movies, going out to eat, going shopping at Bath and Body Works. Just doing those fun things, but then also trying to have some educational pieces as well,” Biroschak said.
The program works in the Mahoning Valley with current foster youth, ages 12 – 17 and young adults who have aged out of foster care.
NOAS is a private non-profit that works to find homes for teens, sibling groups, youth and special needs kids.
The main responsibility of the mentoring program is to simply be there and help guide the mentee through learning new social skills or giving advice.
“They blossom when they can kind of let their shields down and realize that they can start trusting and that someone’s gonna be there for them,” said Cheryl Tarantino, executive director of NOAS.
Biroschak says many children in the foster system lack some social skills due to their circumstances, so advice on things like resume building, cooking or bargain shopping can go a long way.
Tarantino is a mentor in the program as well. She said it has been an amazing experience mentoring a 19-year-old young adult who aged out of foster care.
“To be one-on-one with a young adult who really doesn’t have a lot of support, doesn’t have a lot of connections and just be there for them. I don’t have to do anything, I don’t have to fix anything, I don’t have to tell them what to do. I can just get to know them as she’s comfortable getting to know me, and we can just share time,” she said.
Anyone interested in volunteering to be a mentor, or to find out more information on it, can email Biroschak at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 330-856-5582.
To find out more information about becoming a foster parent or adopting, you can call 1-800-686-6627, ext 126 or visit their website.