ILS works with youth and young adults, who are in foster care or are aging out of the foster care system
Breeanna Campbell’s journey from teenager to adulthood took her to some dark places.
She had an unstable home life growing up in Vancouver. Addiction was rampant in her house.
She saw bad decisions being made by the adults in her life, and she followed by making her own bad choices.
At 16, she entered the foster care system.
Now 20, she is making her fresh start.
And she is crediting the Independent Living Skills program at the YWCA Clark County.
Campbell was connected to the ILS program in December 2019. She was skeptical. So many of the other programs she had worked the past four years had let her down.
ILS was different.
“As we were working together, I noticed it’s not a ‘job’ to them,” Campbell said. “They enjoyed being a resource. They appreciated that them just being there is impactful to you.”
There was just a special way ILS workers went about when working with Campbell.
“They would ask, ‘How are you doing?’” Campbell said, with the emphasis on you. “‘Anything you need? Do you feel safe? Is there anything I can do better to make sure you’re OK?’”
Working in the foster care system, with social workers, Campbell never felt like she was anything more than just the next person on a long list of young people who were struggling.
That system had an authority over Campbell, a power. And the relationship never took.
“I didn’t feel that way with my ILS worker,” Campbell said. “There was just that bond and that mutual trust between the two of us that set a great foundation.”
She felt welcomed at ILS. She felt the help provided there, and the people providing that help, came from a genuine place.
“It was reassuring to know that somebody came and wanted to know I was good,” Campbell said. “They just wanted to support me and be there for me.”
Last week, the YWCA held a celebration for those working the ILS program, and for those moving on from the program.
Campbell ended up graduating high school this past year. She started a new job last week. She is raising her 9-month-old son Carter. For the first time in years, she has hope and promise.
ILS taught Campbell skills such as budgeting, as well as how to better communicate with people. Through all the pain in her life, Campbell acknowledged she was not good when it came to confrontation.
“They taught me how to treat myself like I’m important,” Campbell said. “They taught me how to do a lot of self care.”
Kit Kuran, the director of Independent Living Skills at YWCA Clark County, said she is honored to lead such a program. ILS works with youth and young adults, 15 to 23, who are in foster care or are aging out of the foster care system.
“We help them achieve goals related to becoming independent,” Kuran said. “Education goals. Employment goals. Employment training. We work with them to find housing. At 18, life can throw a lot of curveballs. Our system is a support system for them to navigate adulthood for the first time.”
In the course of a year, Kuran said, ILS works with more than 100 young people. Some are part of the program for a while.
“It is difficult to say goodbye. We work with them for so long. You build relationships with them,” Kuran said. “But it is also part of what we do. My ultimate goal is they are not going to need the program forever, that they are going to live their own lives and be independent.”
Breeanna Campbell is trying to do just that right now. Her story is not an overnight success. It has taken her years to get here.
She is ready, though, to conquer the rest of her life, and she is grateful that Independent Living Skills was a resource for her.
“It was just nice because it was more like a friendship,” she said of the atmosphere around the program, “instead of ‘Let’s just get this over with.’ I knew it was a safe space.”