I will never forget the day my parents dropped me off for college. My college was halfway across the country from my hometown, so my parents didn’t walk me into my dorm room, but instead left me at the airport. I don’t remember many of the details of what I did on that first day on my own. But I remember clear as day the strange feeling that I had as I watched my parents drive away.
I was completely on my own. Totally free. I could do whatever I wanted! Anything! That was thrilling. But I was also alone. I knew no one. I would have to make all of my own decisions. That was scary. My future was ahead of me, and I knew it was up to me to create a new life for myself. I had grown up in a supportive family and my parents had prepared me well, so though I felt twinges of fear, I had little doubt in my ability to do so.
That was my experience on that first independent day when I began my adult life. There’s a good chance that you had a similar experience–different details, but similar feelings.
But what must it be like for the kids in our residential ministries, venturing out for their first day outside the care of the Children’s Home? Recently eighteen, and now with full responsibility to take care of themselves and create their own future. Have you ever wondered about the feelings they might experience, or the thoughts that run through their minds on that day?
In the five years that my husband and I have been missionaries with Kids Alive, we have seen several kids go through this transition to adulthood, and have had conversations with several who have already completed this transition. It is an incredibly difficult time in their lives.
When I plunged myself into the world of adulthood, I still had a safety net. I had a family to fall back on. I had positive role models, examples, and high expectations for my future. I had financial help from scholarships, financial aid, and my parents. I had a home to go back to for the summer and holidays. I had mom and dad standing quietly behind me, backing me up, in case I ever really needed help. It was easy to thrive during my transition.
But our kids don’t have a safety net naturally built into their future. And while it doesn’t mean that they are doomed, it does make their transition a little less thrilling and a lot more scary. The kids we work with often struggle, and for some, those first few years out on their own can be brutal. Some come through it well, and some do not. Of course, safety nets aren’t a necessity, but without them, they certainly face more obstacles than I ever did.
This transition to adulthood is something that we as a ministry team have thought and prayed about often. When we take kids into our Children’s Homes, we become their family, and we want to be their family for life. So, what can we do to help? How can we better prepare them? How can we be their “net”?
Our team here in Peru is focused on improving this area. We aim to be intentional in preparing the children for adulthood while they are still with us. This involves teaching life skills, looking for natural gifts and talents and then searching out ways to develop them, and knowing their character strengths and weaknesses so that we can equip them better. After they leave, we aim to provide them with resources, when appropriate, and connections. We offer help in financing further education, and keep our ears open for job opportunities. We try to provide them with ongoing support, being available to them when they need help or advice, celebrating big and small life events with them, and connecting them with a key person that they know they can always call when they need help.
These are our aims, and it is a tall order! Our time, money, connections, skills and manpower is limited, and we are very dependent on the body of Christ to make up the lack. The local Peruvian church has been very helpful in many of these areas.
But you can help, too! If you sponsor a child, please don’t forget about them once they turn eighteen and your financial commitment is over. Continue to pray for them! They need it now more than ever.
It’s also possible to help financially. We encourage our kids to continue their education after high school, whether it be university, seminary or technical school. Kids Alive has an Independence Fund that is used to help pay for any continuing education. If you are interested in helping any of our kids to pay for their higher education, please let us know.
Despite the challenges they face, we have so much HOPE for our kids! Each one of them was perfectly designed and formed by God, created for a purpose, and is wholly loved by their Father. We can trust that their lives are in His hands–and He’s got great plans for them!
*name changed to protect privacy