The COVID-19 crisis has turned our worlds upside down. Our sense of home has changed drastically as we are confined to our apartments and houses. But imagine if you didn’t have a permanent home.
For 12 youths in the Children’s Aid college program, their sense of home has been completely torn apart. Ranging in age from 19 to 23, these young adults have been attending CUNY and private colleges, residing in dorms year-round, which were their only home-sweet-homes. They were forced to leave and move into temporary foster care due to college’s need to follow suit for health, safety and social distancing. More than ever these youth needed social support.
Our Education Team reached out to these college students to help in their transition—ensuring they had packing supplies, computers to continue online classes, and an ear to listen. For most, this disruption was beyond devastating. For our team, it was a heart-wrenching.
These youths are strong; they grew up in the system. But they are still kids uprooted. Given only 48-hours, they stuffed up to two years of their most-needed belongings into duffle bags, suitcases, and humiliatingly into plastic bags. Finding luggage with so little time proved difficult. But they tried to put on brave faces. They struggled over deciding what was absolutely necessary to take into foster care, and what could go into storage. These students were going to unknown places with limited space, and they were already overwhelmed with emotions of displacement and lost independence.
Autonomy is ingrained in a lot of these college youths. The Education Team was frustrated by not being able to provide assurance of how long the pandemic would last and how long they’d be faced with upturned homes. Fear of the unknown and lack of stability is bringing up feelings of stress and doubt.
Jarian, one of our transitioning students, was particularly anxious for a sibling at another agency and her inability to act as “parent” while she was losing immediate control over her own situation. Araya, was faced with a hard struggle. She’s a junior at Hunter College, aspiring for a career in social work. After years of instability, she was finally able to focus on her studies. Then her computer was stolen, her bathroom ceiling collapsed…and then evacuation due to COVID-19. Like many of our youths, her PTSD has flared up and she is trying to figure out how to complete her studies in flux and without a computer.
Rome, one of our special-needs youths said he was “trying to duke it out” while “doing [his] absolute best to try to catch up” on schoolwork. Although he is trying to shake off the struggle, his transition into a foster home has been hard.
We’re continuing to check in on this youth to let them know that Children’s Aid is here to help them through this period of struggle—and remind them that we are all in this strange time together. Hopefully we can help them keep their heads high and succeed, even in these uncertain times.