JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Right now, hundreds of children are living in the foster care system in the state of Arkansas. But what happens when they reach 18 years-old? Are they ready to take on life's challenges? Region 8 News takes a look at how one organization is helping children in the foster care system become successful adults.
Sharanda Crews hasn't had the life of a typical teenager. "As a teenager it's a little bit tougher than when you're a kid. I've only been in one foster home and it was only for a weekend and I've been in two group homes.," said Crews, who was put in foster care at sixteen after her mother got mixed up in drugs.
She's is the eldest of three. "I have to act strong brave and tough even when I don't want to," said Crews.
Now 18 years-old, she isn't letting her situation keep her down. And with the help of Transitional Youth Programs available through the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services, Coordinator Sherri Burris is helping to give Crews the guidance she needs.
"They ask you what you want to do? Do you want to go to school? Do you want to work? I expressed I wanted to go to college and we started talking about where," said Crews.
Currently, she's a student at ASU, a political science major, and already way ahead of other students her age. "A year ago I was a sophomore in high school and know I'm a sophomore in college. DHS had me get my GED," said Crews.
Crews is just one of hundreds of children across Arkansas that need that extra assistance. It's not just for those who want to further their education, but everything from life skills, job training and emotional support.
"If we can give them that extra something to become great adults then that's what we want to do," Transitional Youth Service Coordinator said Sherri Burris.
Burris handles 9 counties in Region 8 to offer guidance and support like that of a parent. "People just think they are foster children and that they don't have a chance. But they do, and this program gives them the chance to live the dreams that they have," said Burris.
"I really want to be a politician. I would love to be the president of the United States one day. I know there's a lot of issues and I want to fix them starting with the foster care system," said Crews.
While there's government funding from the chafee grant for foster children to go to college, crews says some states offer free tuition to foster children that attend public universities in-state. It's something she hopes to some day get implemented in Arkansas.
And to go along with what Crews has already been able to achieve, she's 1 out of only 20 in the country selected to take part in what's called the "Foster Club All-Star," where she'll spend the summer speaking at conferences across the country.
For more information about the Arkansas Foster Care System just go to www.fosterarkansas.org