By: Heather Tijerina

For most teenagers, their 18th birthday is the ultimate celebration. Years of childhood culminating with a new brand as an “adult”. But for so many young adults in foster care, their 18th birthday can be a scary time filled with mixed emotions. For Eliu, this was the case as he prepared to leave foster care and be on his own for the first time. As he neared his 18th birthday, rather than letting the fear get the better of him, Eliu worked diligently with his caseworker to come up with a plan that would help him be successful. First, he saved up some money and made a down payment on a car. Then he began applying for jobs and he applied for housing. Recently, Eliu moved in to his first home. My first interaction with Eliu was to discuss his request for kitchen supplies; he told me he was excited to cook meals in his new kitchen because he enjoys cooking. Eliu picked out pots and pans, a knife set, and dishes, and was so eager to cook fajitas for himself.

With housing stabilized, Eliu did the thing that few young adults have the forethought to do; he turned his focus to his financial health and budget. He obtained a job and with support from Foster Angels, enrolled in school to earn a real estate license. He managed to save over $3,000! Our Keys to Success program aims to provide support and guidance as youth go through the car-buying process. We also offer a match of up to $3,000 for a down payment or, in Eliu’s case, to pay off the remainder of the car loan. Eliu discussed his budget, his car payments and other financial obligations, and though he was nervous about dipping in to his savings, he decided to request our Keys to Success match to pay off his car loan balance of $6,000.

On March 26, it was a moment of pure satisfaction as Eliu handed a check matching the same amount as the Foster Angels check, each $3,000, to the car dealer; in that moment Eliu exuded the emotion of someone who has worked hard to make their own dreams come true. The only thing that topped the look on his face in that moment, was the look that came right after- a smile of absolute joy as the dealer placed the car title in his hand. It was his. The car he worked hard for, and saved for, and cared for, it was truly his. I blamed the mist in my eyes on my allergies, darn those allergies!

We have opportunities to intersect with young men and young women in these pivotal moments where they are deciding what story to write for themselves. It is a blessing that, for a short while, we get to be a character in the story of their lives. As young adults leave foster care, they turn to a new chapter, a blank page full of possibilities, and they hold the pen as they decide on the shape of their stories. Eliu is determined to write a beautiful story, and Foster Angels is honored to play a part in it.