More than 300 foster kids in Oklahoma are turning 18 and becoming an adult every year, meaning they’ll soon be too old for child care services through DHS.
Thomas Rios is one of those teens aging out of DHS.
“I was really scared. I didn’t think I was going to be able to do this,” said Rios.
Rios said his case worker introduced him to an organization called Youth Villages. Youth Villages has a program called YVLifeSet that helps those aging out of DHS between ages 17 to 22. It gives resources for colleges, careers, housing, transportation and more.
Instead of falling into bad habits, Rios and others aging out of DHS can turn to someone for help 24-7.
Rios said ever since first grade, DHS was trying to get him out of a broken home. He is the oldest child of eight and spent his life taking care of his younger siblings. Thomas didn’t get out of the home until this past January.
When he went into foster care, Rios said he was rebellious.
“It was really upsetting at first because you don’t realize what kind of situation you come from. You don’t really think that it’s abnormal until you get taken out of it.”
He admits he got into a lot of trouble and knew something needed to change. He’s about to turn 18, graduated from high school, and has to enter the real adult world.
YVLifeSet has helped him turn his life around. Rios now has goals to be a welder and one day open his own business in that specialty. He encourages others aging out of DHS to take advantage of Youth Villages’ resources.
“No matter how hard it is, no matter what you come from, don’t worry about what happened in the past. Look forward,” said Rios.
Youth Villages brought YVLifeSet to Oklahoma County last September, partnering with the Department of Human Services. The plan is to grow it into a state-wide program.
For children aging out of DHS that need support, contact Youth Villages.