Foster teens transition to adult life with HEARTS

WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – It’s not easy for anyone to get an apartment, a job and pay the bills. But at 18 years old, some kids in the foster system, who have struggled with family and mental health problems, the challenge can be overwhelming.

A special program has been developed in Trumbull County called HEARTS (Helping Early Adults Reach Their Success) and it is geared toward helping foster teens make the transition to life on their own.

Trumbull County Social Worker Cathy Brown started the HEARTS program to help young adults like William Bailey who at 18 years old will be transitioned out of the foster program and will face extra hurdles such as legal and mental health problems.

“I started hanging with the wrong crowd. I started doing the things they did as far as smoking weed and smoking cigarettes,” Bailey said.

That road eventually led Bailey behind bars. But the HEARTS program found him and hooked him up with an apartment and a line on a job.

“I got to take stuff off the truck and put furniture on the display and lots of stuff that built me to the person I am today to where I think I am very capable of getting jobs,” Bailey said.

Malcolm Brown is 21 years old and his family survived Hurricane Katrina. At 13, he moved here from turbulent years that included being homeless. Cathy Brown helped him find and furnish an apartment.

“The most important thing when I work with someone to get their own place is not to just have some place to live, but for it to be their home,” Cathy Brown said.

In his second year at Youngstown State University and trying to get a degree in social work, Malcolm insists HEARTS saved him.

“We talk about money management, we talk about anger management, we talk about problem solving,” Malcolm said.

Cathy Brown said that life lessons are also part of the program such as reminding clients to be respectful, assertive, and how to speak to others and navigating everyday situations.

“He (Malcolm Brown) was having a plumbing problem, so I would model to him going to the landlord and how to speak to her to get things done,” Brown said.

Cathy Brown also leads small support groups once a week that also focuses on basic tasks such as cooking healthy and on a budget.

Valley Counseling Director Jody Klase, which sponsors the program, said the program is cost effective and works

“This is the group of kids that often time would have ended up jail or dropped out of school and end up relying on the system and they are not. They are becoming successful, young adults,” Klase said.

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