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Helping Vulnerable Young People Stay on Track

The world can be a hazardous place for youth who age out of foster care without the proper support behind them. In Florida, more than 3,000 teens face this reality, according to the state's Department of Children and Families. The statistics for this group are alarming.

  • One in four will be incarcerated within two years.
  • More than 20 percent will become homeless at some point in their adult life.
  • Only 58 percent had a high school degree at age 19, compared to the national average of 87 percent.
  • Less than 3 percent will earn a college degree by the age of 25.

Lake County's Forward Paths Foundation seeks to address vulnerable young people's needs. Forward Paths provides temporary housing, job skills training, and both educational and financial assistance. With these supports, youth who age out of the foster care system have greatly increased chances of leading healthy, safe, and independent lives.

The Importance of Individualized Care

a young person surrounded by hands with leaves attached, representing forward paths and its work to support foster youth

Denise Burry is the executive director of Forward Paths Foundation and formed the nonprofit back in 2013. She saw this problem firsthand in her hometown and decided that more needed to be done about it.

Each case is different, and Forward Paths Foundation creates an individualized plan for each person it contacts. But the goal in every scenario is to provide a comprehensive skill set that ultimately leads young adults on a journey to independence. Both temporary housing and adult supervision are provided when necessary. Coaching is available on career skills to prepare young people for jobs that interest them.

Forward Paths Foundation also helps these young people finish high school, apply to college, or identify a vocational training program. These steps build a self-sustaining lifestyle away from the risk factors associated with this population.

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Reliable Accounting Software to Keep Things Running Smoothly

Like many in nonprofits, Denise first kept her organization's books on an Excel spreadsheet. However, around tax time, this proved a bit cumbersome, so she looked into QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit Edition.

But in addition to easier tax-related reporting, Denise points to the software's grant tracking capabilities as a major benefit to her organization.

"When we have a certain bill come in, it's great to be able to see which grant is paying for that expense," she said. "Rectifying that directly in the program is really helpful, and I really think it's great that they made an edition specifically for nonprofits."

She explained that the nonprofit edition aids in the organization's communication with its benefactors. "QuickBooks helps us track where the money is being spent so that we can relay this information to our donors in a form that's easy to understand," she said.

Denise received the accounting software as a TechSoup member. She acknowledges that access to these sorts of tools is made possible through the Intuit Donation Program.

"We're always working with a limited budget, especially working with homeless youth," she said. "We don't have a product to sell, so we're just at the mercy of what we can raise or get donated. Having these tools available to us is extremely important."

A Bright and Independent Future

A future goal for Forward Paths Foundation is to build a community of tiny houses in which homeless youth and young adults can live as they transition out of foster care.

"Right now we're working with different philanthropy organizations and builders to build what we're calling a 'parade of homes' in order to showcase this idea," Denise explained.

Currently, she works with about 20 youths. She noted that last year she spent about half her organization's budget on rent alone. A permanent community for transitional populations will help stem these costs and free up monies for other programmatic needs.

And all this means that more young people will be provided the support that otherwise wouldn't be there for them, strengthening them individually and the communities in which they live.

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Additional Resources: QuickBooks for Nonprofits