This quote by Eshawn Peterson, the founder and President of Onward Hope, touched me deeply. She and her sister, Jackie, experienced foster care first-hand. Through their lived experiences, they realized that they wanted to help make life in and after foster care easier for boys and girls.
These are children who all share similar experiences, trials, tribulations, and triumphs. In an effort to work to counter overwhelmingly negative statistics, Onward Hope was created to assist youth as they transition from foster care, with the goal of first healing from trauma and then moving forward in life.
Eshawn is a proud alumna of foster care who is using her personal history, and her challenges as well as her successes, to run the only Alumni Founded Foster Care Agency in Arizona. She has surrounded herself with others who have lived through similar challenges as the teens and young adults they serve who are now transitioning into adulthood. Only those who have lived the life of a foster child can fully understand and relate to the deep-seated fears, trauma and insecurities of teens in the system.
Youth in foster care have experienced abuse and neglect. They have lived through trauma that affects their lives today and influences the important choices they must make as they move down the path to adulthood.
According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, each year 20,500 youth nationally are emancipated from foster care without reunifying with a family, or being adopted. Of youth who age out of foster care, less than 50% will graduate high school, and 25% will be incarcerated within 2 years. Children and adolescents with foster care experience are diagnosed with PTSD at twice the rate of U.S. war veterans. These are the negative statistics reflecting the huge obstacles that burden the paths of foster youth.
Onward Hope is perfectly named for the mission that they have taken on. Life for children aging out of foster care will go Onward, but without vital support services, there can be little Hope to overcome all of the adversity they face. Future work at the agency will place particular focus on the unique challenges facing young women in foster care. Approximately 100 babies are born to girls in Arizona’s foster care system each year. With a mentor and guide to replace the extended family and walk along side young women, these moms and their babies will have the tools they need to face the days ahead.
Through their service programs including transition coaching, life skills training and mentoring, Onward Hope works to provide support, nurturing and resources to help youth succeed, and redirect their path toward positivity.
Eshawn is dedicated, passionate and focused on being a positive influence for foster youth. She serves as CEO of a non-profit organization, has achieved her MBA, and is a Child Welfare State Liaison for the Children’s Bureau. She utilizes her seemingly endless store of energy to help others, wanting to give them a chance to succeed as she has, knowing that with support and encouragement these kids like her can thrive.
Onward Hope empowers and connects youth and families today, to create a strong future tomorrow. Learn more about Onward Hope at www.onwardhope.org. The organization is a Qualifying Foster Care Organization for purposes of the Arizona state tax credit (QFCO #10048). Volunteers to serve as mentors, or in other roles, are also needed.
Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.
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