There is a term in foster care called “aging out.” That is when a child becomes to old to be part of the foster care system any longer and, ready or not, must become self-sufficient. A new non-profit group on the Northshore aims to help those kids in that transition.
“There is a fact, there’s a percentage, actually, that shows you who make it," says Kim Bigler, the founder of James Storehouse. "It is a fact that 80 percent of those who age out are homeless, most of them within the first year they have aged out of foster care. So when I try to tell people, and explain to them the realities of the kids in foster care, I tell them, 'You look at every social ill in our backyard, every social issue, and a majority of the percentage links can be linked back to former foster youth.'"
The name comes partly from a scripture in the first chapter of the Book of James. The organization was founded in California, but Bigler was in town recently to visit their new Northshore chapter. She remembers how an email about a space heater was the impetus behind the group’s creation.
“James Storehouse started when I got a big mass email about a girl who had aged out of the foster care system," says Bigler. "She had just aged out, I think eight months ago. It was Christmastime and she apparently was freezing in her apartment that had no furniture, no bedding, no towels, nothing. I think she had a few pairs of jeans and a few tee-shirts and they were looking for a space heater for her.”
While she was thinking about it, Bigler says she heard a still, small voice inside of her saying, "'Kim, I want you to go get the heater.' So, I realized in that moment, as I’m mulling over about why nobody’s doing anything, I was not doing anything. And so it was then that I decided to do something and I’ve been getting heaters ever since, so to speak.”
James Storehouse provides furnishings and other necessities to help former foster kids establish themselves and live independently, but the group’s aim is to do much more than that. Bigler recalls a young man named Thomas, who dreamed of going to college. James Storehouse is helping him accomplish what he though would be impossible.
“So he’s now bringing up his grade point average, because we’ve enrolled him in courses in a junior college nearby that would take him and help him raise up his GPA," she says. "But that wouldn’t have happened unless an adult or a caring person in the community would have stepped up. nd God forbid we provide him a bed, provide him a fish, but don’t teach him how to fish. I find that foolish, I find that irresponsible on our part as society members.”
Bigler is passionate about the humanity of her mission, but she also recognizes the financial implications of doing nothing.
“The amount it costs to care for a child in foster care, from the time that they get out to old age — because they have to stay in some kind of government assistance, because nobody has stepped in and helped them get the job or go to the university — was something around $300,000 per child, she says. "That’s a staggering number.”
Bigler’s vision for James Storehouse includes providing help for all foster kids on the Northshore, but it also reaches far beyond our borders.
“Everyone wants to help the orphan in their own backyards, but they want a practical and systematic way of doing it, Bigler says. "And that’s what James Storehouse provides. I would like to see that there would be a James Storehouse in every county and every parish in the nation. Kids are in every county and every parish in this nation who need the services of what James Storehouse provides, and we also lead them to loving communities eventually, by and through what we do.”
Northshore Focus is made possible with the support of the Northshore Community Foundation.