James Samaritan, based in St. Tammany Parish, has been serving Louisiana’s children in foster care since 2015 by providing for their resource and relationship needs. With a focus on youth transitioning out of foster care, James Samaritan strive to build and strengthen support networks by partnering with members of the community and other nonprofits. According to the Department of Children and Family Services, approximately 150 youth transition out of foster care each year (1). Unfortunately, these transitional youth have no family to turn to for guidance or support. While physical resources improve these youth’s well-being and living conditions, the resource that makes the most impact is having a committed and caring adult in their lives.
One caring adult can help change the following statistics for youth transitioning out of foster care (2):
1 in 2 Do Not Finish High School
1 in 4 Experience Incarceration
1 in 5 Experience Homelessness
1 in 5 Homeless Teens are lured into human trafficking (3)
In 2022, James Samaritan is launching a new mentoring program, LIFE Network, for foster youth ages 14-24. The program will empower youth by teaching relational and life skills while also providing pathways to other opportunities. LIFE Network was created by a diverse group of child welfare professionals who incorporated evidence-based practices into the core of the program, which will provide multiple opportunities for volunteers to engage with this underserved population.
Volunteer opportunities for LIFE Network include:
LIFE Lines – Volunteers committed to meeting our participating youth’s immediate, tangible needs through donations, resources, and other support services, critical to their development, education, and/or employment.
LIFE Coaches – One-on-One mentoring will match youth with a trained and caring adult. Together, they will work to establish a relationship, participate in life skills training, and set goals that are the foundation for a successful future.
LIFE Groups: This group will serve as an “extended family” to the youth and LIFE Coach. They pray for the youth regularly, serve as a valuable, extended network of support, and send encouraging letters, care packages, and small gifts for special occasions.
James Samaritan will also open their first Youth Connection Center in Monroe, Louisiana, where LIFE Network will launch in March before rolling out in the Covington region in June. A beautiful white two-story home in Monroe will provide a stable warm place for community connections to form and flourish, as well as be an overall safe hub for our youth. All of this wouldn’t be possible without the chance meeting between James Samaritan Founder Kim Bigler and former director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Northeast Louisiana, Jennifer Graves. Kim always envisioned a more robust model of support that could be replicated statewide for youth transitioning out of foster care. Jennifer not only shared this dream, but she also had the experience and relational network needed to build it. As the Director of James Samaritan, Jennifer will facilitate the launch of LIFE Network in both Monroe and Covington.
Dreams don’t happen alone, for James Samaritan or for our youth. All it takes to change their statistics is one caring adult. You can be the change.
James Samaritan’s Youth Connection Center has an Open House and Ribbon Cutting in Monroe. Please join us at 908 N. 3rd Street on April 11th at 10:00. All are welcome!
1. Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services. (2018). “Extended Foster Care: Making Aging Out a Thing of the Past”
2. The Way Alliance. (2018). Statistics cited from their website at wayalliance.org
3. US News. (2017) “Human Trafficking’s High Toll on Homeless Youth”.