A Higher Education Home: Wrap-Around Support for Vulnerable Youth for Collegiate Success

A Higher Education Home: Wrap-Around Support for Vulnerable Youth for Collegiate Success

Grant Year: 2021 | Focus Area: Education | Grant Amount: $101,820 | Grant Status: In Progress

A Higher Education Home: Wrap-Around Support for Vulnerable Youth for Collegiate Success

United Methodist Children's Home, Inc.

What started as an orphanage in 1890 in Summerfield, Alabama, with the name United Methodist Children's Home, has grown to serve thousands of children and families across two states. The ministry offers services across Alabama and four counties in Northwest Florida through group homes, foster care and adoption programs, family preservation services, transitional living programs, school readiness programs, scholarship homes, and homes for mothers and their children. Now known as Embrace Florida Kids, a ministry of the United Methodist Children's Home, Embrace Florida Kids (EFK) provides services to vulnerable children who cannot live with their biological parents due to possible neglect, abuse, or abandonment. With children and youth as the priority, EFK also helps broken families address harmful behavior, giving them a second chance at becoming whole again. Before entering EFK's care, the children and youth the organization served did not have the opportunity to grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. In 2020, EFK served 971 babies, children, teens, young adults, and parents in Florida. Approximately 98% of those served live at or below the poverty level.

Project Description

Through serving foster care children, the organization knows the need to support college-age youth in foster care or alternative living situations so that they can achieve success during college and beyond. Foster children have worse outcomes as adults than their peers across a range of indicators, including being more likely to have criminal justice system involvement, becoming parents at an early age, generally earning less than their peers, and being more likely to suffer economic hardships. Earning a college degree can help reduce the disparities foster children face. IMPACT 100 funds will be used to purchase a home centrally located to the University of West Florida and Pensacola State College that will provide a stable and loving environment where students can seek a better life through higher education and supportive services. EFK will be with them every step of the way to adulthood to cultivate tailored growth in individuals focusing on academics, spiritual, and social aspects. Providing this home will allow EFK to care for these vulnerable young adults during their critical years of higher education, ensuring greater continuity and stability in their lives.

Community Impact

A Higher Education Home’s purposefully designed space will improve access to and the chance for success in higher education for students in foster care and alternative living environments through providing a home with supportive services and scholarships so that they may succeed in college and life. The students will feel cared for while realizing the more extensive network of supporters providing for and cheering on their success. This Home is modeled after successful implementations of the program in neighboring counties in Alabama, who boast of successful college graduates who are gainfully employed and living independently as a result of the program participation. These EFK Higher Education graduates work in various fields, including business, nursing, music ministry, fine arts, and communications. This Higher Education Home program often provides the first opportunity for these youth to live normal lives, and when they finish college they have a changed, improved sense of self. Funding for the Home in Escambia County will change the trajectory of these student’s lives.