There once was a boy who was taken away from his mom. She had a drug addiction that landed her in jail time and time again, until Child Protective Services had to finally remove him from her home. He came to live with us when he was just five years old, we were his 3rd foster home.
I remember him sitting in the back seat as we drove home, so little, with his legs crossed, staring out the window, a battered cowboy hat firmly pulled down over his ears. My heart broke as I watched him in the side mirror, it literally hurt, tears were stinging my eyes. I couldn’t imagine his fear, riding with strangers to an unknown place. I wanted to turn around and give him back, I thought to myself, I’m not brave enough to be a foster parent.
I look back on those two years we had him, and realize we knew nothing about being parents, let alone being foster parents. Fortunately, he ended up being adopted by some fabulous folks who had adopted before, but what happens to the foster children who don’t get adopted?
My plan, on this 3-week trip around the Southwest, was to connect with some of the amazing non-profits/people helping others. Kristen Mazza, Executive Director of The Ebby House in Dallas Texas, is one of those people I had the honor of meeting and sitting down with.
Let me start by saying–walking into the Ebby House was like stepping into someone’s Pinterest Board called “Awesome Home Decorating Ideas”! The building was built in the 1930′s, but the renovation took a sterile office-looking building and transformed it into a home that anyone would feel blessed to live in. And sitting down with Kristen, was like talking with an old friend whose passion, for breaking the cycles of children transitioning out of the foster-care system, is contagious.
The stats for foster children who have aged out of the system-
84% become a parent within 2-4 years after leaving foster care
51% are unemployed
50% are homeless
30% are receiving public assistance
25% are in prison
The Ebby House is part of Juliette Fowler Communities, an organization with 120 years of history in the Dallas area for caring for orphans and widows. Interestingly, back when they opened, all you needed for admission was a black burial dress and $25. Today, since their at-risk teen program closed in 2009, they have focused on caring for their 350 elderly residents, ranging from low-income apartments for seniors, to full nursing and memory-care on their 16-acre campus.
The Ebby House though, brings back Juliette Fowler’s original desire for the campus to be used to care for both the elderly and “orphans”, or more specifically, in The Ebby House’s case, girls who have aged-out of the foster care system. The home has only been open for about 2 weeks, but they are rockin’ it already. This program has thought about the needs of the girls that will be calling The Ebby House home, and strived to meet those needs with an intentionality and care that should be applauded with Big Band music and dancing.
Ebby House will be home for 16 young women for a period of 12-24 months providing healthcare, education, career guidance, job training and volunteerism. The girls will learn to be self-reliant, confident and philanthropic.
BUT HERE’S AN INNOVATIVE THING–I’VE SAVED SOME OF THE BEST FOR THE LAST– Juliette Fowler Homes is an inter-generational community!! Do ya’ll know what that means? (“ya’ll” is my Texan coming out) Neither did I!! Well I mean I could have guessed by taking the word apart, but I had no idea how it would play out within a community.
Here’s the idea–bringing diverse generations together for mentoring and friendship, benefits both sides. Here’s how it works– the girls living at The Ebby House volunteer serving the senior community living at the Juliette Fowler campus, as well as being paired up with a senior mentor-friend. This gives both the seniors and the girls a unique opportunity to grow and learn from the perspective of a different generation.
I am so excited to follow the unfolding of this innovative program and hear about all the lives that they will be changing and destructive cycles they will be breaking!! You gotta take a look at their website here- The Ebby House they really are doing amazing things. If you have any questions about their programs e-mail Kristen Mazza the Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org.