Published in our 2015 Annual Report.
NOTE: This program is no longer available at Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans. If you are interested in foster care programs, please visit our Therapeutic Family Services page.
Sonya Brown walks through the Hope Chest at the Catholic Charities Independent Living Skills office, pointing out good outfits for her client to wear to an upcoming interview. Sonya remembers not too long ago when she was piecing together work attire at the Hope Chest for herself. Now a social worker, Sonya is a graduate of the Catholic Charities Independent Living Skills Program (ILSP) which teaches youth who are or were in foster care to become independent adults.
“At 18, I was terrified,” Sonya reflects on her experience of aging out of the state’s foster care program and being challenged to live on her own. Today, she is appreciative of the care the ILSP staff provided during the difficult times of learning to be independent.
They taught me how to find housing, set up a bank account and create a budget,” Sonya says about the essential life skills counseling she received through the program. “They were always there for support, even if I just needed someone to talk to.
The ILSP curriculum also teaches job search, interview preparation, health care navigation, housekeeping and emergency and safety skills through group and one-on-one sessions. The Hope Chest, a space where youth can come find clothing and household items, and a food pantry are also available to supplement ILSP clients’ needs.
Through the program, Sonya also received assistance in paying for college and went on to complete her Masters in Social Work. Her first job in the field was a Life Skills counselor at the place that enabled her to succeed, ILSP. This time, she was the one working with youth, offering hope and inspiration, knowing all too well what her clients were experiencing.
“ILSP is very important to foster children’s development,” Sonya testifies to the program’s strength. “My clients say it’s the best program.”
Her experience gives her an advantage in working with foster care children: “I can have a great impact on my clients because I can relate very well to what they’re going through.”
Helping children in the same circumstances in which she had been, Sonya continues to do the work she loves, making sure foster children’s needs are met and giving them hope they can succeed on their own.