JEMfriends helps transition to adulthood

We met a woman helps others transition to adulthood.

BOISE -- For 17 years you've watched the stories of Wednesday's Children on the News at Five. We'll continue to bring you their stories, but we also want to find out where all those kids are now.

If you've been a Wednesday's Child, we'd love to hear the rest of your story. So please contact Dee Sarton at dsarton@ktvb.com with Wednesday's Child in the subject line.  We know there are happy endings out there, and we want to share those. But sadly, we also know there are some disturbing statistics for the children who age out of foster care.

- More than one in five will become homeless after age 18
- 71 percent of young women are pregnant by 21
- At the age of 24, only half are employed
- Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree
- One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system

Statistics like these ones motivated a young Idaho woman to do something to help young people aging out of foster care.

Dee got to meet Liberty Barrett recently and visit the home she and her nonprofit JEMfriends now open to these young people with nowhere else to go.

"It's a five bedroom place, so we're going to be able to house up to seven girls at this location," said Barrett.

The idea for this house and the special home it would someday provide started seven years ago when Liberty Barrett was just 19 years old. Her best friend was a foster child about to turn 18 - aging out of the foster system and soon to be on her own.

"And during her senior year just seeing the stress from the decisions she was having to make and the anxiety that came along with," said Liberty.

Anxiety over where she would live was most pressing. The same worry former foster child Alexis experienced when she turned 18.

"I was supposed to go to the homeless shelter, and of course I was freaking out because I had been there," said Alexis.

But now Alexis is in the JEMfriends home for girls aging out of foster care.  It's much more than a roof over her head. It's right on the bus line so she can get to work and someday soon - school.

And thanks to generous donations it's comfortable here - downright homey. For Alexis having a piano is a bonus.

"A lot of music like brings me back to like some of the good memories I had like when I was young, I did have some good memories," said Alexis.

“We are JEMfriends , anyone that is involved with JEMfriends is a part of a community that comes around these youth that says statistically it's not possible, it shouldn't happen that you can transition well, but with the right group of people around you, believing in you, saying anything it's possible, it can happen," said Liberty.

Some 50 volunteers help Liberty by pitching in to teach life skills and provide friendship.  Shelly Hummel is one of them.

"They turn 18 and they're homeless and they don't have just the skills that we as parents would teach our children naturally, so we don't want them to feel forgotten," said Shelly.

Shelly says a story about one of Alexis's first shopping trips with Liberty says it all.

"They were checking out and getting groceries and Alexis said ‘so I guess we're going home.  Wait... home,’” said Shelly. “And that's what this is. This is home and now she has a home and saying the word home isn't so foreign to her anymore."

“And one of our JEM youth, just recently one of her comments about it was that the JEM home was a place that she was able to really find herself," said Liberty.

JEMfriends has helped ten young people through its transition program so far and will soon open a home for young men.

If you'd like more information on how to apply or how to help go to their website.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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