A new program is helping kids exiting the child welfare system avoid homelessness.

"Exit Up! is definitely near and dear to my heart and something that brought me to Siloam. It is a program that really focused in on one of the biggest feeders into homelessness which unfortunately is the child welfare system," says Laiza Pacheco, the Director of Programs at Siloam Mission. 

Pacheco designed and implemented the Exit Up! program at Siloam and has been with the ministry for eight years. 

"When folks age out of that system, they really don't have a lot of supports. They might not have any familial connections so they sort of get lost in the adult system," she says.

The program is focused on helping teens that are coming out of the welfare system a safety net. 

"Providing them one-to-one support through case management. Looking at setting goals with them, looking at life skills, and ways to become what we call interdependent."

Pacheco says the idea that everyone can be fully independent is a utopian ideal, but interdependence allows people to thrive while having a support system behind them. 

"Prior to Siloam, I did work a number of years in child welfare. So I often saw over the years, growing up in the system, it must be unimaginable. It must be hard to be disconnected from family."

Gaining Trust

Pacheco has seen firsthand how long it takes to build trust with people exiting the foster and welfare system. 

"You have these relationships that are built in the system that are what I call relationships with expiration dates."

Children and teens in the foster care system often have a few caseworkers, not just one. If a child enters a group home and starts building relationships, sometimes they are suddenly moved. 

"You're faced with building these relationships and then your trust is being broken. You tend then to close yourself off and it's really hard to trust anything at that point."

Siloam's new program aims to build real trust to help teens and young adults thrive. 

"What I really like about this program is that it's a program that we can offer with no expiration date. As long as you want to be in this program and accept the help that we're trying to provide, then there is no expiration date."

Join CHVN for the Change Happens Radiothon in support of Siloam Mission from October 5-7.