Lynx Foundation Recognizes Connections to Independence

Mark Remme
Lynx Editor/Writer

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For kids leaving foster care, it’s not just about making sure they’re ready for the financial and educational choices that await them. It’s also about making sure each person is ready emotionally for the next phase in his or her life.

That’s where Connections to Independence comes in.

The non-profit organization, which began as part of Summit Academy OIC in 2002 and has since become its own entity housed at the Sabathani Community Center in South Minneapolis, was created to address the high number of youth of color who were in Hennepin County’s foster care system. According to C2I’s official website, its goals include attempting to improve the long-term outcomes of its population, specifically foster care clients who face arrest, prosecution, incarceration, required welfare, or had an open child protection case of their own.

On Sunday night at Target Center, the Lynx Foundation presented Connections to Independence with a $2,000 grant. The money will help foster care youth, ages 15-21, hopefully become prepared for a successful transition to living independently as they reach adulthood.

Lynx Business Development Manager Carly Knox presented C2I Executive Director Jessica Rogers and Program Manager Michelle May with the check during the second quarter of Minnesota’s game against Tulsa.

Rogers said the program understands the importance of teaching independence skills like finding housing, employment and education once leaving the foster care program, but one of the unique and important traits of this initiative is that it helps children cope with some of the traumas that often come with transitioning from home to home. She said most children have an average of five different placements, which is a lot to endure.

“We also added the healthy mind, body and soul aspect because when I was brought on in 2008, I noticed kids were still coming back to us, and they weren’t successful,” Rogers said. “So we had to take a step back and see, why is that? We realized they were getting the basics on how to get an apartment, how to go onto post-secondary school and go to college, but they weren’t able to sustain those things because they weren’t healthy. No one addressed the trauma, the pain, their mental health issues that they had, so we do that. We have a holistic approach to live independently. We want for them what we all want in life, which is to be happy. If you’re not healthy, that’s not going to happen.”

Through the program, each child is matched one-on-one with independent skills counselors, and they stay with that person throughout the duration of their stay with the program. That timeframe is three years on average.

May said it’s important to make sure each child is prepared emotionally, because if they’re comfortable from the mind, body and soul perspective, they’ll be much more receptive to the other lessons.

“If we can heal from the inside, the outside is going to be easy,” she said. “So teaching them money management is going to be so much easier if we can deal with what’s going on first inside.”

May said being recognized by the Lynx organization and presented with a grant was a huge help, not only from a monetary perspective but also through helping the community know that their organization exists. She said it’s nice to get the recognition and to raise awareness about foster care and how we can help kids in the program make a smooth transition into adult life.

Rogers agreed.

“This is amazing, just a super great honor from the Lynx, but it’s a lot just to raise awareness,” she said. “We actually just got done with our foster care awareness campaign. May was Foster Care Awareness Month. We had a PSA, and the CW did a show on us called “Our Issues.” And just to raise awareness so people know what happens to a lot of youth.

“It’s not 100 percent of youth, but kids come into foster care, sometimes kids get abused worse in foster homes than they did in their homes. It’s not meant to be a permanent fix, but it’s becoming a permanent thing for these young people. To help them develop healthy relationships and for people to know an organization like us exists, it’s priceless.”

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