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Emily FreemanEmily Freeman ILS

When you're a child in foster care that moves so often, when are you supposed to have time to learn basic skills? That was my personal experience through foster care. Thankfully, Pierce County Alliance’s Independent Living Skills Program (ILS) saved me. Before I entered the program, I will admit, I could not even set a simple practical budget! After attending their weekly meetings for a while, I was amazed at all the little things I didn’t know how to do that are needed for everyday life.

You get so excited, growing up, and very ready to leave the foster system that little things like these don’t seem necessary to you. Trust me though, they indeed are!

From knowing how to make spaghetti, to budgeting and finding jobs, your ILS program will help you navigate through the systems. Every youth gets their own case manager, who helps them through the scarier stuff. The weekly group must be my favorite part though, as it makes the learning fun. Every person who is attending that group has been or is in the same situation that you are. This can make the groups less intimidating, and the learning more fun.

The weekly meetings are set up to make the learning interesting and engaging. Lessons are set up to be both informative and interactive. Did I mention they always supply food at their meeting? If you haven't gone, I would very highly recommend you check them out. Get both some food and life skills while you’re there. Don’t be that person who moves into their first apartment and doesn’t know how to make spaghetti.

Pierce County Alliance offers an ILS program (Independent Living Skills) for youth in the foster system. Youth can enroll in the program when they are fourteen years of age and can continue up to their 21st birthday. Pierce County Alliance is just one of the many examples of the community supporters throughout Washington that offer these ILS services.

ILS offer weekly meetings, where you learn valuable life skills, while surrounded by a strongly bonded community of individuals just like yourself. Throughout the weekly meetings, one would obtain not only a newfound life skill, but friends as well. An example of the work they do can be seen on the Pierce County Alliance site:

"The ILP provides current and former foster youth, ages 15-21, the services they need to pursue a successful lifestyle. The ILP team at Pierce County Alliance will teach them daily living skills, help develop educational plans, and work with them to obtain and keep a good paying job. Additionally, this program is designed to assist youth during the critical period between the time they leave foster care until they reach age 21. Our mission is to help them become independent and self-sufficient adults. We link them to resources within the community and help to keep them on the right path to reach their full potential. (wa.gov)

Personally, the ILS program at Pierce County Alliance has helped me grow into the successful young adult I am today. As a foster-alumni, my childhood was spent moving from home to home, often at random! Not knowing when I would be moving next, I never had a stable foundation to learn basic home lessons. Children who grow up with intact families are not moving constantly and can take the time to learn from their elders. 

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We welcome submissions of articles, poetry, artwork, and photography from our young readers who have experience in the foster care system and/ or homelessness. If you want to be, or have been, published in the Mockingbird Times visit www.mockingbirdsociety.org, call us at (206) 407-2134 or email us at youthprograms@ mockingbirdsociety.org. Note: Incoming letters to the editor and correspondence to youth under 18 years should be addressed to the Mockingbird Times and will be opened first by adult editorial staff.