TO OUR HOUSE
Being part of Our House means you can feel safe to be who
you are. To know you’re able to trust and are surrounded
by peers and adults who care about your success.
It’s knowing there are people who can help you map out
your goals and navigate life’s challenges. It’s a
feeling that there’s someone to help celebrate
the highs and provide support during the lows.
It’s a community of people who care.
It’s OUR House.
Washtenaw County youth who are or have been in foster care
The mission of Our House, a Washtenaw County nonprofit, is to help young people (age 14-25) successfully transition from foster care to adulthood. Our vision is that they become successful, self-sufficient and can live independently with confidence.
We're always looking for enthusiastic volunteers to help with the work we do. Become a mentor, help out with our monthly meetings, volunteer for a committee -- there are lots of ways to get involved.
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Shelly is not your typical 20 year-old. Active and boisterous, her affect seemingly places her somewhere on the autism spectrum and/or fetal alcohol exposure, although the lack of medical records makes it difficult to confirm. Always ready with an obscure fact, she is the person you’d choose for trivia night. Unfortunately, Shelly’s adoptive dad felt unable to handle Shelly’s challenges and chose not to parent, leaving Shelly abandoned for the second time in her life at a critical time in her development. Shelly’s mom provided a loving home and did all she could for Shelly, but now it’s time for Shelly to move out on her own and become independent.
Challenges: Has not completed high school; needs a job, but has never worked; limited social connections; grooming and hygiene less than appropriate; trouble organizing herself and defining steps to achieve her goals.
Marcel entered foster care when his parents ‘left town’ and didn’t bother to tell him or his siblings where they were going. Taking on 4 young children wasn’t something his extended relatives were willing or able to do, so Marcel and his brothers and sister all went to different residential facilities – in some cases, a cross between an orphanage and a juvenile jail. Since Washtenaw County has no such facilities, the family had to leave behind not only their home, but also their school, friends and most of their belongings. Spread across the state, the kids rarely see each other and miss the bonds they used to share when they were a family. Marcel, the oldest, hopes to one day have a home to allow him to have his brothers and sister come live with him.
Challenges: Teens are less likely to be adopted or find a foster family and are more likely to ‘age out’ of foster care; unlikely to develop skills to help him succeed once he moves from the residential facility.
Popular and an avid football player, Dillon has unknowingly worked his way into a box that many foster youth find themselves in. As with most teens, peer pressure can be a daily influence on behavior; unfortunately, Dillon’s group of friends have not made the best choices and Dillon now faces charges in the juvenile justice system, the result of which include probation, court fees and community service. This time Dillon was lucky; as a 17-year old, he’ll end up in the adult system with more severe consequences next time. Diagnosed with ADHD, Dillon has been prescribed multiple medications, causing him to feel groggy and sedated, yet off medication he feels unable to sit still and concentrate. He has taken to ‘self-medicating’ with substances to compensate for his inattentiveness and the side effects of his prescribed medications.
Challenges: Limited educational choices due to past suspensions; social connections are creating negative influences; needs a job to pay for court costs, but age, attending school and transportation are all barriers.
Like many youth in foster care, Shay has lived in many cities and attended multiple schools. It seems as soon as she makes friends and is starting to feel comfortable, a new crisis arises and she has to move again, starting all over again socially and academically. Mom and dad separated long ago and each has a new family they’re raising. Shay currently lives with her dad, but between work and his family, there isn’t a lot of time left for Shay. She’s eager to log some driving hours so she can get her license, but arranging time to drive with her isn’t a priority for Shay’s family. Shay knows being able to drive could open a wider geography in which to find a job and safe, cheap living. Despite the obstacles, Shay is driven to be the first in her family to graduate from high school and hopes to find a job to help with her expenses and so she can save some money to move into her own apartment someday.
Challenges: Lack of family support; lack of familiarity with the area; constantly living “on the edge” takes an emotional toll.
[While the stories are real, the names, photos, and some details have been changed to protect the privacy of those we work with and care about.]