Lifeguide is a program hosted by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center tasked with connecting adult mentors with teens and young adults aged 16-21. These teens and young adults come from long term foster care under the New Hanover County DSS. Lifeguide differs greatly from the Big Buddy program as its primary goal is to help those who have experienced long term foster care transition into young adulthood as they age out of the foster care system.
Foster care is usually meant to be temporary, with the majority of foster kids spending roughly two years in foster care, usually in multiple homes. Despite this, more than 20 percent of foster care kids experienced 10 or more placements before aging out. Moving from home to home can significantly harm a person’s psychological and social growth as it takes away any sense of permanence or stability in developing kids. As a result of these continued movements, children in foster care grow up with few, if any, adults in their life that can give them strong, consistent guidance.
Studies show that the long term effects of foster care often leave young adults less capable of adjusting to the new world of responsibilities and stressors that adulthood independence brings. Those studies show that 22 percent of adults who went through the foster care system have been homeless at one point in their adult lives, compared to 2% of the general population that experiences homelessness at some point in adulthood. This is often attributed to them simply being "kicked out" once the funds given to foster households to care for them stop coming after the ward turns 18. Those who have been through the foster care system are less likely to attempt a post secondary education than those in the general population as well. They are also more likely to not have health insurance coverage at approximately 33%, one third of foster care alumni. Having a revolving door of adult care takers in their lives can leave many former wards of foster care with little in the way of true guidance or support. This can leave many of them without someone who can mentor them through the process of becoming a fully functional adult.
The effects of long term foster care also have significant mental health implications for former wards. Foster care alumni are more likely to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder than the general population at a rate of 25 percent, compared with 4.5%. They are more likely to suffer from Depression at 24.3 percent, as well as anxiety at a whopping 43 percent and it’s no wonder why. Moving from home to home, getting used to one family just before they are shipped off into another household is a tremendous psychological strain for a child. Many of these former wards turn to alcohol and substance abuse to cope with the aforementioned mental health issues at a rate of 11.1 percent compared with 2.5% of the general population. While there are certainly many foster care alumni who go on to live perfectly well adjusted lives in adulthood, others do not fair so well.
Lifeguide’s mission is to pair wards in the process of aging out of the foster care system with a consistent, caring adult mentor to help them navigate their journey into adulthood. The foster care alumni who sign up for Lifeguide have often gone much of their lives without a dependable mentor figure who can help them avoid the aforementioned problems. A Lifeguide mentor not only provides moral support, they also help guide mentees through the typical processes of early adulthood. Lifeguide mentors also assist in helping mentees with the college application process and entrance into trade programs. They also help mentees find employment or lease their first apartments, giving them the tools to lead a more successful life as adults. Lifeguide mentors help give those without a stable base of guidance and support the foundation from which they can build upwards for a lifetime.
Kids Voting is a national, nonpartisan, grassroots educational program collaborating with the Cape Fear Volunteer Center to bring improved civic education to New Hanover County children. Kids Voting teaches school aged children about government, the constitution, registering to vote and other topics related to political engagement. The organization hosts events like the “Preamble Challenge” and observes holidays such as “Constitution Day”, which marks the creation of the US Constitution. The Kids Voting mission is to better educate children on their country’s voter registration process and political process as well as to foster a greater sense of civic duty.
Studies show that, currently, only 26 percent of US citizens can name all three branches of the American government (executive, legislative and judicial). As it stands, most school districts don’t offer a civics class until a student reaches high school, and then it is only for a single semester. In fact, civics education is often treated as a non-essential “add on” subject rather than a necessary course needed to function well in a democracy. As a result, many American youth leave high school severely under educated about their nation’s political functions and their rights as citizens. This eventually leads to millions of adults that are largely uninformed, apathetic and inactive when it comes to civic engagement, such as not showing up for local and mid-term elections or simply not registering to vote at all. The low voter turnout of American elections, including presidential elections, has often been a source of shame for our society as a whole as many other democratic nations have much higher turnouts.
Further study shows that 37 percent of US citizens cannot name any of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US constitution (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of assembly and freedom to petition the government for a redress of grievances), This same study showed that only 48 percent could name the freedom of speech, which is the right generally associated with the First Amendment. Such a lack of knowledge of constitutional rights can be extremely disadvantageous. Not knowing one’s rights can certainly lead to those very rights being violated without that citizen’s knowledge. Being unaware of your constitutional rights can leave you greatly handicapped when it comes to fighting injustice or even recognizing it. Being educated on their most basic of civil rights can only help kids as they grow up to be voting citizens in a free, constitutional republic.
Students will benefit greatly from an early civic education. Early civic education and engagement is a great way to ensure that young people grow up with a more in-depth knowledge of their constitutional rights as well as the structure and function of their country’s political system at all levels. Kids Voting hosts events like the Preamble Challenge, which tests kids’ knowledge of the preamble to the US Constitution, held annually on the Constitution Day holiday, September 17th. In addition, kids will be taught the amendments laid out in the constitution, as well as many of the Supreme Court cases that helped shape the document into what it is today. The civic education kids would receive and the engaging activities that Kids Voting host will go a long way in helping young ones grow up with a stronger interest in politics and becoming engaged, well informed voters.
Amedisys is a healthcare organization partnered with the Cape Fear Volunteer Center. They specialize in end of life hospice care as well as home based healthcare. Amedisys has partnered with us to help recruit volunteers to provide companionship for patients nearing the end of their lives due to terminal illness. Volunteers would help with things such as grooming, massage therapy, pet therapy and much more. A potential volunteer can sign up to help Amedisys by completing a volunteer form online at www.capefearvolunteercenter.org and listing it as their “Desired Agency”.
For many people nearing the end of their lives, it can be a lonely journey. Often, these people do not have close family or friends to surround themselves with to make the inevitable less painful. They could be alone near the end for any number of reasons, like being the last of their family or friends, having no close family members who would bother visiting or simply due to estrangement. Other patients’ families simply cannot spare as much time and can be overwhelmed with the burden of caring for a dying family member. The loneliness these terminally ill patients experience could not only dampen their spirits, it could even cause a more precipitous decline in health and has been linked to the increased likelihood of developing dementia in elderly patients.
The benefits of a patient near the end of life having a volunteer companion are many. For the patient, they will have someone to talk to who isn’t medical staff. Having someone to provide companionship can improve their mood and ease the intense depression, loneliness and anxiety that comes when one knows the end is near. This can help tremendously with improving the mental health and well being of hospice patients. And you don’t have to come alone, you can bring a four legged friend as well. Pet therapy is also encouraged for patients. Studies show that even one half hour session with a dog can raise dopamine levels, as well as other hormones associated with happiness and relief. For volunteers knowledgeable in massage therapy, you can employ those skills with Amedisys patients. Massage therapy is great for relieving the aches and pains associated with being ill, bedridden or elderly and also releases hormones associated with relaxation and positive emotions. There are many ways in which you, as a volunteer, can improve the lives of hospice care patients.
The benefits of volunteering with patients near the end of life extend to the families of these patients, as well. The families can often act as secondary caretakers for patients near the end. This undertaking can be very time consuming and they often cannot be there as much as they would want to because of other pressing responsibilities. Having someone volunteer with their ailing loved one and provide them with companionship can be a tremendous boon for them. It can be a major comfort for them knowing that their loved one has another person in their life who can be with them and help out.
The spectre of death can be a painful, frightening and uncomfortable thing to be around but it is also another aspect of life. Spending time with a person near the end of their life can bring about a huge emotional toll, but it can mean the world to them to have one more person in their lives near the end.
Want to volunteer for Amedisys? Select it as your desired agency when filling out our online volunteer form at www.capefearvolunteercenter.org
Would you or your business like to partner with Amedisys? Register on our website or theirs at https://www.amedisys.com
Have any questions? Call 910-392-8180
Kids Care Club is a volunteer program hosted by the Cape Fear Volunteer Center that facilitates and promotes youth service throughout the Cape Fear region. The Kids Care Club recruits school aged volunteers and brings them together to lend a helping hand to their community. Not only does Kids Care Club bring child volunteers together to help out around their community, they also instill a sense of duty in them. By sending youth volunteers out into their community, they are imbued with a heightened sense of compassion and a better knowledge of their community and its issues.