As parents, we begin preparing our children for the path to adulthood from birth. We want to ensure that we have reviewed every scenario that could possibly arise, and sometimes still feel as if it isn’t quite enough to protect and guide them. Children and teens who have lived most of their lives in and out of substitute care can miss out on life lessons that are considered standard for most peer groups. There has been no one there to model responsible adult behavior. There is no guiding hand for them.
Fortunately, there exists a passionate team of individuals who recognize these deficiencies and work to replace them with skills necessary to become productive and contributing adults. Necco’s Atlanta team, comprised of Nateefa Lee, Monia Smith and Aunyia Ames work with 23 youth in their Independent Living (IL) program, who range in age from 18-21. Their goal is to build on the youth’s existing strengths. IL youth have varying needs and are at different stages in their development. Some of the areas that the Atlanta IL team focuses on include: education, family relationships, employability and money management. The IL Program allows youth to transition into typical adult situations such as housing, employment and social engagements independently, but with the support of a safety net.
Necco of Atlanta faces different challenges with this niche population of young adults. “Some youth don’t know how to say ‘no’ to their friends and family”, remarks IL Coordinator, Nateefa Lee. It can be common for staff to work on establishing housing and utilities and furniture for a youth, only for their friends and family to try to move in on the good fortune. Nateefa, Monia, and Aunyia help youth establish boundaries and feel a sense of ownership in and pride for what they have worked hard to accomplish. The community plays an important role in Necco of Atlanta’s IL mission. The team has fostered connections with employers, mentors, and community partners to provide a real sense of belonging and value to the youth in the program.
Nateefa credits the success of the program on the youth’s willingness to be taught. “I am placing these kids in gated communities. I tell them, ‘You see your neighbors getting up every day and going to work? I need you to do the same.’ They respect what we teach because they know we have their best interest at heart. In the end, they do remember what they were taught. That’s how I rest at night.”
To learn more about the future that Nateefa and her team are helping build for Atlanta’s youth, please visit: http://www.necco.org/services/independentandtransitional_living