Mentor program helps teens aging out of foster care

(FOX19) - Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) has teamed up Ohio Job and Family Services to help foster children who have aged out of the system make a more successful transition into adulthood.

Ilon, 18, is a test case. He's the first foster child to be matched with a mentor in a brand new Connecting the Dots program. Ilon says it's a program that will give him a better chance at success.

"Give me a better perspective on life, something that I've never seen before. The whole other side," he said.

Hamilton County Job and Family Services Director Moira Wier says the side foster children come from is loaded with challenges.

"Children in foster care come to us because they've been abused or neglected or someone's not been able to care for them, so they come with a host of issues," explained Wier.

Foster children like Ilon are statistically have a higher risk of dropping out of school, being unemployed and getting arrested as they age out of the system.

BBBS VP of Programs Donna Herrmann-Vogel says Connect the Dots aims to surround these children with people who care.

"We're hoping to match them with a mentor who can help get them through high school and into some additional training after high school so that they have better skills, a better way to support themselves and are more comfortable at being independent," said Herrmann-Vogel.

Weir says that's just what the program hopes to teach older foster children by carefully pairing them with mentors.

"The goal is really to increase the kids staying in high school, graduating, completing their GED, and also look at higher education, opportunities for employment as well as reduce earliness of motherhood or fatherhood," said Weird.

Ilon has been paired with a mentor he hasn't even met yet, but he's hoping the two of them can shape a promising future.

"Either go to college for graphic design or be a tattoo artist if that doesn't work. I'm real good with my hands so drawing just takes me to my happy place," Ilon tells FOX19.

The mentorship program lasts two years, and by that time, Ilon hopes to be well on his way to earning a degree in graphic design.

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