AUSTIN (KXAN) - Courtney Jones has lived in dozens of houses during her life but none as beautiful as the one she just moved into over Memorial Day weekend. This one is all hers. Years of hardship and hard work have paid off.
"I was in the Texas foster care system for ten years… long years," Jones said. "I was probably in about 20 to 30 different foster homes, shelters and group homes."
During those long years, Courtney endured sexual and physical abuse. She was briefly adopted, but that didn't work out. When she aged out of the foster care system at the age of 18, she was homeless living in her car. She would bathe at 24-hour restaurants.
Her journey to her new home began when a former case worker found her on the streets and helped her get the education she needed to go to college. She has worked hard to complete undergraduate and masters degrees in social work. She knew she would have to get her education to accomplish her next goal, helping other foster kids transition out of the system.
"I felt like one thing I could do is help this population and they couldn't tell me I didn't understand, because I do understand," Jones said.
Jones had help of students at Texas State University in creating a video telling the story of her new nonprofit she is setting up called Change 1 .
The slogan is Change 1 Mind, Change 1 Life.
She hopes to educate the community about the needs of foster care youth as they leave the system. She wants to find businesses to offer jobs, educators to tutor and other who can provide housing options. Former foster children like Laquinton Wagner have signed on.
"I hope Change 1 will bring awareness that these are young people," Wagner said. "These are not full grown adults and they still need the support of the community."
The dream is one day more children who spent years living in other people's houses will have one of their own just like Jones.
"My favorite part of this house is probably the bedroom," she said. "It's big and it's mine, and I feel at home."
Texas Foster Care Redesign
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services is also trying to make the system better. The Foster Care Redesign project began in January 2010 as people from around the state came together to make the foster care system more efficient and effective.
The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services lists the guiding principles of Foster Care Redesign:
- First and foremost, all children and youth are safe from abuse and neglect in their foster-care placement.
- Children and youth are placed in their home communities.
- Children and youth are appropriately served in the least restrictive environment that supports minimal moves.
- Connections to family and others important to the child are maintained.
- Children and youth are placed with their siblings.
- Services respect the child's culture.
- That youth are fully prepared for successful adulthood and are provided opportunities, experiences and activities similar to those experienced by their non-foster care peers.
- Youth are provided opportunities to participate in decisions that impact their lives.
From a system development perspective the guiding principles of the redesign include:
- Fully informing and engaging those with an interest in foster care (stakeholders).
- Basing proposed solutions on the data and evidence.
- Providing incentives for good outcomes for children.
- Developing a foster care model that neither precludes nor requires additional funding.
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