Why Work with Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care?

A major goal of Growing Alliances is to decrease the likelihood that youth transitioning out of foster care will find themselves unemployed, incarcerated or homeless. We do this by providing paths towards financial stability.

According to Amara, a foster care and adoption agency, there are nearly 10,000 children and youth in foster care in Washington State.

In a study done by the University of Washington in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin, it was found that only 48% of youth who had transitioned out of foster care in the last five years were working, compared to 72% of their non-fostered peers.

Of those who were working, the median annual income was $8,000.

Nearly 60% of young men who had recently left foster care had been incarcerated.

Another 40% had been homeless or slept on friends’ couches.

Why Urban Agriculture?

At Growing Alliances we believe that urban agriculture can benefit both the population we work with and the food security of City of Bellingham. For this reason, we have chosen to provide vocational opportunities in this specific area.

We utilize urban agriculture because research studies prove that being outdoors and in the soil lowers cortisol levels, which in turn lowers the high prevalence of anxiety and PTSD in the youth we employ. We wish to address PTSD because foster youth are twice as likely to experience this debilitating mental state than are U.S. war veterans (The Harvard Crimson). We’ve found that conquering the physical challenges of farm work increases confidence and self-worth, especially in young women. Working in the garden also serves as a relevant platform to hold weekly discussions about the history, politics and economics of the U.S. food system and allows us to cook and eat good quality food together.

Bringing farms into the city localizes food production, distribution and increases access to fresh, nutritious food.

Urbanizing agriculture offers the following environmental benefits, plus more:

  • Cleans air contaminants

  • Decreases water runoff

  • Decreases food miles and CO2 emissions

Increasing urban greenery beautifies spaces and creates community pride.

More specifics on our goals and objectives are described below in our Powers and Purposes.

Powers and Purposes

To utilize urban agriculture in order to improve the chances for financial success of current/previous members of the foster care system.

To decrease the number of current/previous members of the foster care system who are unemployed, entering the prison system and/or becoming homeless.

To improve urban food security and to enrich the beauty and health of our cities through supporting and partaking in urban agriculture.

To create positive relationships and trust between the community and current/previous members of the foster care system.

To educate youth in the foster care system on sustainable farming methods in order to improve nutritional knowledge, mental and environmental health.

To promote leadership, responsibility, improve job skills and increase community connections of current/previous members of the foster care system, in support of those youth becoming financially stable and self-reliant.

To facilitate an enjoyable, creative and low-stress work environment so that every participant develops a positive relationship with employment.