The first time I ever stopped to consider what happened to foster children when they legally became adults was in 2000 – I was 14 and picked up “White Oleander” at Barnes & Noble; I remember being outraged and filled with questions… I sought out my cousin, who worked as a social worker in the foster community at the time, to have those questions answered.
I was stunned to learn that the kids who are never adopted were essentially let loose into the wild, like an animal kept in conservation (except these kids don’t get tagged so someone can check in on them later) for too long.
In fact, nearly 26,000 young adults “age out” of the system every year; it should come as no surprise, when you consider how helpless they must feel – left to fend for themselves, that after four years, 25 percent of them have been homeless, less than half completed high school, and more that 80 percent are unable to care for themselves.
Thankfully, for young adults fresh out of the system, Vita Nova will happily step in to assist. Latin for “new life,” Vita Nova helps young adults, ages 18 to 25, transition to independence by providing a stable, nurturing environment (which includes Vita Nova Village in West Palm Beach). Through an array of unique programs and services, Vita Nova is able to help ensure every person through their door succeeds in school, is safe, and is able to obtain a job; they have had a huge impact on hundreds of young adults over the last decade.
“Everyone of us can remember being 18 years-old and the challenges that arise with growing up; when these challenges occur simultaneously with transition from foster care, with no one to rely on, they become overwhelming,” explained Jeff DeMario, CEO (and driving force) of Vita Nova for ten years. “As a community, we must do everything we can to help former foster children shift successfully into adulthood, enabling them to become happy, productive, successful adults.”
Vita Nova, which is located in West Palm Beach, is made up of four parts: Vita Nova Life Coaches, the Oasis Center (OASIS: Outreach, Advocacy, and Support for Independence and Self-Sufficiency), Vita Nova Village, and last, but not least, the Vita Nova Thrift Store.
The Thrift Store is of much importance to the Vita Nova mission; the shop provides vocational support for Vita Nov residents, offers high quality merchandise at significantly reduced prices, provides fun volunteer opportunities to the community, and 100 percent of the income from the Thrift Store supports Vita Nova’s other programs.
The Thrift Store is located at 3129 S Congress Ave. in Palm Springs. For hours or other information, please call (561) 434-2754. To learn more about Vita Nova, their programs, how to donate, or how to get involved, please visit www.vitanovainc.org.