Program Focuses on Mental Health Care for Foster Youth

August 10, 2017 09:45 AM

June Barker, a 26-year-old woman from Minneapolis, spent much of her adolescent life in the Hennepin County foster care system.

"A lot of people ask me questions like 'How was it living in foster care, and how did you make it through,'" she said.

Barker's social worker enrolled her in an organization called "Connections 2 Independence" at the age of 15.

"At first I did not want to be a part of the program," she said. "C2i became my support and family."

According to Jessica Rodgers, the executive director of the organization, C2i is designed to instruct and mentor young teens and help them transition into adulthood.

Through a series of programs, youth learn a variety of lessons - like how to apply to college, rent an apartment, balance a check book and find a job.

"C2i is an amazing place for youth who are in foster care ages 14 to 24," Rogers said. "We want our kids to be successful in life."

Rogers said there are nearly 11,000 youth in foster care in Minnesota, and about 400 age out of foster care every year.

"C2i only works with a small population through our funding, which is about 55 youth through our contract with Hennepin County," Rogers said.

"We are the only one that solely focuses on youth aging out (of) foster care with a 10-year span to work with these kids. We need more funding to reach more children."

Mental health care is a prime concern when it comes to making a successful transition into adulthood. 


To help, C2i program director Michelle May created a new course called "All About Me Summer." It focuses on personal wellness.

"These kids are going from home to home so many times they pick up different things from different families, May said.

"We really focus on their values - where do they come from and why do you believe in them."

May said the program allows youth to focus on developing their internal components of self, which will help combat low self-esteem, trust issues and trauma.

Barker is attending "All About Me Summer." She is eight months pregnant and expecting a baby boy. Barker said she plans to teach her son the lessons she is learning about self-awareness.

"I learned that it's OK to be hurt," Barker said. "It's OK to be down and recognize when you need help from others.

"I plan to teach my son that it's fine to be yourself."


Cleo Greene

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