By Shayla Reaves

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but consider the effect it’s had on young people in the foster care system. Kids who’ve aged out of the system are dealing with the challenges of being out on their own.

Imagine you’re 18, 19, or in your early 20s and don’t have family to turn to; you’re truly on your own. There may be questions you might be thinking of calling to ask mom and dad, who aren’t there to ask.

One organizer says she can’t imagine what the last year might have been like for young adults not linked to her nonprofit.

Jessica Rogers is the executive director of Connections to Independence and discussed some of the challenges with WCCO’s Shayla Reaves.

“It’s been a super tumultuous time for our population,” Rogers said.

The nonprofit organization helps 14- to 25-year-olds transition from foster care to the community in Hennepin County. COVID-19 brought new challenges for the organization.

“If COVID-19 showed us anything it’s that we need to make sure our young people are in industries that they’re not going to be the first ones cut in those service industries,” Rogers said.

Lost jobs and cut hours forced some to make tough decisions.

“Our goal is that 60% of our kids were going on to post-secondary programs. During COVID last year, that dropped down to 20%,” she said.

Many are just trying to survive.

“We had to do an assessment of those young people to figure out what are their basic needs. We need to make sure that our older kids have food, that they have a roof over their heads,” Rogers said.

Rogers says Connections to Independence is doing food boxes pretty much everyday for older fosters and young people who have aged out of care.

Over a couple of weeks, the nonprofit paid out about $10,000 in back rent to keep young people in their homes after a federal freeze on most evictions ended July 31. That moratorium was put into place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep millions of tenants in their homes.

Many lost jobs during the pandemic and had fallen months behind on their rent. For more information on how to donate or help with COVID relief efforts, visit Connections to Independence here.

Shayla Reaves