Goodwill Manasota, Children’s Guardian Fund partner to help foster kids who ‘age out’

  • Mark Sharff, Children’s Guardian Fund advisory board member, with Goodwill Manasota vice president Veronica Brandon Miller

    SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – In order to help young people aging out of the foster care system, Goodwill Manasota and the Children’s Guardian Fund are partnering on the Good Futures/Coaches Corp. program. The goal of the program is to provide caring, individualized attention and guidance in the development of independent life skills for foster youth in the 18-24 year-old age group. The program will assist with these five primary goals: finding stable employment; understanding the principles of budgeting income and saving money; securing stable housing; achieving post-secondary education; and healthy living.

    Through this program, the Children’s Guardian Fund will be responsible for referring appropriate candidates to Goodwill Manasota for emergency assistance with clothing, household goods and furniture, and for training Goodwill Ambassadors (volunteers and advocates) to serve as mentors. Goodwill Manasota will offer financial literacy classes tailored to these youths’ unique needs, and provide Job Connection services including interest/aptitude testing, resume development, mock interview workshops, job search assistance, provision of appropriate job leads, referrals for ancillary service, and follow-up once a participant is placed into a job.

    Goodwill Ambassadors, Guardian ad Litem volunteers in connection with Children’s Guardian Fund, and other professionals in the community will provide coaching and mentoring to the youth.

    Youth aging out of foster care face tremendous obstacles as they go out on their own. Without permanent family connections and community networks to provide support, these youth have a tough road to travel.

    Here are some sobering statistics on the prospects for young people aging out of foster care, according to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative:
    • More than one in five will become homeless after age 18;
    • Only 58% will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87% of all 19 year olds);
    • 71% of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system;
    • By the age of 24, only half are employed;
    • Fewer than 3% will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28% of all 25 year olds); and
    • One in four will be involved in the justice system within two years of leaving the foster care system.

    The study, issued in 2013 by the Casey Initiative, noted that the costs to society are great. The study notes, “ … on average, for every young person who ages out of foster care, taxpayers and communities pay $300,000 in social costs like public assistance, incarceration, and lost wages to a community over that person’s lifetime.” This results in nearly $8 billion in social costs to the U.S. annually.

    “It is heartbreaking to think how our society is failing these young people, and how limited their prospects may be for a happy and productive life. In our community, we are so fortunate to have the Children’s Guardian Fund to assist in providing normalcy and enrichment to those children who have been removed from abusive and neglectful homes,” said Veronica Brandon Miller, vice president of the Goodwill Manasota Foundation. “Our goal is to help provide youth aging out of the system with supports to assure them that there are people who care about their future, and offer resources that give them the tools they need to succeed in their career and in life.”

    “Imagine living on your own at 18 or 19 years old without having a support network – who do you call when you face those challenges? Children’s Guardian Fund is committed to working with children of all ages who have been removed from their families due to abuse or neglect, so we are in a unique position to work with these young people,” added Children’s Guardian Fund program director Jan Vestal. “We are excited to partner with Goodwill Manasota, as they provide an abundance of resources to help these teens be successful.”

    For more information, or to make a donation to the Good Futures Fund, call (941) 355-2721, ext. 104.

    About Goodwill Manasota
    Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2015, Goodwill Manasota served 22,739 people, placed 961 people in jobs and assisted 358 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $81.3 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted 41 million pounds out of the landfill. We accomplish our mission through a network of Good Neighbor Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties and our Mission Development Services (MDS) around North America. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota in essence belongs to this community, and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit

    About Children’s Guardian Fund
    The Children’s Guardian Fund is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Incorporated on November 17, 1995, the specific goal of the CGF is to provide support to the children in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit (Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto Counties) who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect and/or abandonment. Working exclusively with the Guardian ad Litem program, the CGF has provided financial support for, among other things, tutoring, school field trips, summer camp, clothing needed for work, beds, cribs, and birthday and holiday gift cards. For more information, please call or email Jan Vestal, Program Director for Children’s Guardian Fund, at (941) 447-6584 or To make a donation to Children’s Guardian Fund online, go to and click the orange “donate” button.

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